Queen Anne’s lace: Beautiful flower or weed?

By Carol E. SMITH

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

Out and about one day, I spotted a sign in a churchyard that read PLANT SALE!! It caught my attention and I stopped to see what treasure might be found. I came out carrying a plastic, red Solo cup for which I happily paid a dollar. The cup held an unidentified plant I later learned was Queen Anne’s Lace. I planted my treasure and enjoyed the ever-blooming, ever-spreading flower.

My interest began to grow when a friend informed me that I had purchased a weed. I began to notice Queen Anne’s lace growing on the side of the road and in fields. I saw it growing in gardens as well. Was my purchase a beautiful flower or a weed? I’ll share what I learned.

Queen Anne’s lace is a biennial herb. It is short the first year, but in the second year it can reach 3-4 feet tall! The leaves are very light, swaying in the wind. The stem is hollow and hairy. It has many small white flowers that grow umbel in shape (according to Merriam-Webster, the pedicels arise from about the same point to form a flat or rounded flower cluster), like an umbrella blown inside out. Queen Ann’s lace is considered an exotic, yet invasive species that outcompetes native plant growth. The plant reproduces from seed and each plant can produce thousands of seeds.

According to North Carolina University Extension information, Queen Anne’s lace and seed is banned in many states because of invasive properties. The plant may be considered a weed in those areas. In mowed turf areas the “weed” is grown in landscaped flowerbeds and is considered a flower, the spread easy to control by hand removal.

Queen Anne’s lace is also called wild carrot – the scientific name Daucas carota, so named for the distinctive yellowish white taproot. The root is edible. Wild carrot is defined as an herb and in times past was used for multiple medicinal purposes, including contraception and a diuretic. Correct identification was critical.

Don’t mistake wild carrot for poison hemlock. Similar in appearance, poison hemlock has purple spots on a smooth stem; wild carrot has tiny hairs on a green stem.

Folklore is plentiful and includes stories about the origin of the plant name. One story relates the profound grief experienced upon the death of a king, causing his queen forever after to wear black garments covered with lace.

My research of Daucas carota was completed with the help of my granddaughter. We added drops of food coloring into our vases of cut flowers. Within hours the lacy white blooms of Queen Anne’s Lace were pale shades of blue, orange, green and yellow. Herb, flower, or weed, I continue to enjoy this plant in my garden!

To learn more about Queen Anne’s Lace, go to http://go.osu.edu/lace

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