Daucus carota

Daucus carota, whose common names include wild carrot, European wild carrot, bird's nest, bishop's lace, and Queen Anne's lace (North America), is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae. It is native to temperate regions of the Old World and was naturalized in the New World.

Wild carrot
The umbel of a wild carrot
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Daucus
D. carota
Binomial name
Daucus carota
    • Ballimon maritimum (Lam.) Raf.
    • Carota sativa (Hoffm.) Rupr.
    • Carota sylvestris (Mill.) Lobel ex Rupr.
    • Caucalis carnosa Roth
    • Caucalis carota (L.) Crantz
    • Caucalis daucus Crantz
    • Caucalis gingidium (L.) Crantz
    • Caucalis hispanica Crantz
    • Caucalis pumila Willd.
    • Daucus abyssinicus C.A.Mey.
    • Daucus agrestis Raf.
    • Daucus alatus Poir.
    • Daucus allionii Link
    • Daucus annuus (Bég.) Wojew., Reduron, Banasiak & Spalik
    • Daucus asturiarum Barnadez ex Cutanda
    • Daucus australis Guss.
    • Daucus australis Kotov
    • Daucus blanchei Reut.
    • Daucus bocconei Guss.
    • Daucus brevicaulis Raf.
    • Daucus capillifolius Gilli
    • Daucus carnosus Moench
    • Daucus carota var. acaulis (Bréb.) P.D.Sell
    • Daucus carota subsp. boissieri (Schweinf.) Hosni
    • Daucus carota var. brachycaulos Reduron
    • Daucus carota f. epurpuratus Farw.
    • Daucus carota f. fischeri Moldenke
    • Daucus carota var. fontanesii (Thell.) Reduron
    • Daucus carota f. goodmanii Moldenke
    • Daucus carota var. gummifer Syme
    • Daucus carota var. linearis Reduron
    • Daucus carota var. pseudocarota (Rouy & E.G.Camus) Reduron
    • Daucus carota f. roseus Farw.
    • Daucus carota f. roseus Millsp.
    • Daucus carota var. tenuisectus (Degen ex Palyi) Reduron
    • Daucus communis Rouy & E.G.Camus
    • Daucus communis var. pseudocarota Rouy & E.G.Camus
    • Daucus commutatus (Paol.) Thell.
    • Daucus dentatus Bertol.
    • Daucus drepanensis (Arcang.) Tod. ex Lojac.
    • Daucus esculentus Salisb.
    • Daucus exiguus Steud.
    • Daucus foliosus Guss.
    • Daucus gadecaei (Rouy & E.G.Camus) Rouy & E.G.Camus
    • Daucus gibbosus Bertol.
    • Daucus gingidium Georgi
    • Daucus gingidium L.
    • Daucus gingidium subsp. atlanticus Rivas Mart.
    • Daucus gingidium subsp. commutatus (Prolongo) O.Bolòs & Vigo
    • Daucus gingidium subsp. hispanicus (Gouan) O.Bolòs & Vigo
    • Daucus gingidium subsp. majoricus (A.Pujadas) Mart.Flores, Juan, M.A.Alonso, A.Pujadas & M.B.Crespo
    • Daucus gouanii Nyman
    • Daucus gummifer All.
    • Daucus gummifer Lam.
    • Daucus gummifer var. acaulis Bréb.
    • Daucus gummifer var. intermedius Corb.
    • Daucus halophilus Brot.
    • Daucus herculeus Pau
    • Daucus heterophylus Raf.
    • Daucus hispanicus Gouan
    • Daucus hispidus Desf.
    • Daucus hispidus Gilib.
    • Daucus hispidus Mill.
    • Daucus hispidus var. tenuisectus Degen ex Palyi
    • Daucus jolensis Pomel
    • Daucus kotovii M.Hiroe
    • Daucus levis Raf.
    • Daucus lucidus L.f.
    • Daucus marcidus Timb.-Lagr.
    • Daucus maritimus Lam.
    • Daucus maritimus With.
    • Daucus martellii Gand. ex Calest.
    • Daucus masclefii Corb.
    • Daucus matthiolii Bubani
    • Daucus mauritanicus L.
    • Daucus mauritanicus Salzm. ex DC.
    • Daucus maximus Desf.
    • Daucus micranthus Pomel
    • Daucus montanus Schmidt ex Nyman
    • Daucus nebrodensis Strobl
    • Daucus neglectus Lowe
    • Daucus nitidus Gasp.
    • Daucus nudicaulis Raf.
    • Daucus officinalis Gueldenst. ex Ledeb.
    • Daucus paralias Pomel
    • Daucus parviflorus Desf.
    • Daucus polygamus Gouan
    • Daucus polygamus Jacq. ex Nyman
    • Daucus rupestris Guss.
    • Daucus russeus Heldr.
    • Daucus sativus (Hoffm.) Röhl. ex Pass.
    • Daucus scariosus Raf.
    • Daucus sciadophylus Raf.
    • Daucus serotinus Pomel
    • Daucus serratus Moris
    • Daucus siculus Tineo
    • Daucus strigosus Raf.
    • Daucus sylvestris Mill.
    • Daucus tenuissimus (A.Chev.) Spalik, Wojew., Banasiak & Reduron
    • Daucus vulgaris Garsault
    • Daucus vulgaris Lam.
    • Daucus vulgaris Neck.
    • Melanoselinum annuum (Bég.) A.Chev.
    • Melanoselinum tenuissimum A.Chev.
    • Peltactila hispida Raf.
    • Peltactila parviflora (Desf.) Raf.
    • Platyspermum alatum (Poir.) Schult.
    • Thapsia annua (A.Chev.) M.Hiroe
    • Thapsia tenuissima (A.Chev.) M.Hiroe
    • Tiricta daucoides Raf.
    • Tornabenea annua Bég.
    • Tornabenea tenuissima (A.Chev.) A.Hansen & Sunding

Domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies, Daucus carota subsp. sativus.


Inflorescences and foliage
Flowers (worm's-eye view)
Fruit cluster containing oval fruits with hooked spines

The wild carrot is a herbaceous, somewhat variable biennial plant that grows between 30 and 120 cm (1 and 4 ft) tall,[3][4] and is roughly hairy, with a stiff, solid stem. The leaves are tripinnate, finely divided and lacy, and overall triangular in shape. The leaves are 5–15 cm (2–6 in) long,[4] bristly and alternate in a pinnate pattern that separates into thin segments. The flowers are small and dull white, clustered in flat, dense umbels. The umbels are terminal and about 8–15 cm (3–6 in) wide.[5][4] They may be pink in bud and may have a reddish or purple[6] flower in the centre of the umbel. The lower bracts are three-forked or pinnate, which distinguishes the plant from other white-flowered umbellifers. As the seeds develop, the umbel curls up at the edges, becomes more congested, and develops a concave surface. The fruits are small, dry, bumpy, oval and flattened, with short styles and hooked spines, as well as protective hairs surrounding it.[7][5] The fruit has two mericarps, or bicarpellate. The endosperm of the fruit grows before the embryo.[8] The dried umbels detach from the plant, becoming tumbleweeds.[9] The function of the tiny red flower, coloured by anthocyanin, is to attract insects. The flowers bloom from May to September.[5][4]

Similar in appearance to the deadly poison hemlock, D. carota is distinguished by a mix of tripinnate leaves, fine hairs on its solid green stems and on its leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in the center of the umbel.[10][11] Hemlock is also different in tending to have purple mottling on its stems, which also lack the hairiness of the plain green Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot) stems.[12] Both plants have been spread into North America by European settlers and are now common wildflowers there.

Function of the dark central florets

The function of the central dark florets of D. carota has been subject to debate since Charles Darwin speculated that they are a vestigial trait.[13] It has been suggested that they have the adaptive function of mimicking insects, thus either discouraging herbivory,[14] or attracting pollinators[15] by indicating the presence of food or opportunities for mating.[16] One study in Portugal found that the dark florets contributed to visitation by the varied carpet beetle, Anthrenus verbasci, and that higher numbers of dark florets correlated with increased visitation, whereas inflorescences without dark florets had fewer visits. Replacing the dark florets with one or more freeze-killed A. verbasci, who are similar to the florets in size and shape produced similar results to those observations of inflorescences with intact florets.[17]


The carrot was first officially described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 work Species Plantarum.[18] In 2016, an international team sequenced the full genome of Daucus carota.[19]


Cultivated carrot's only parent is Daucus carota.[20]

Both domestic and wild carrot are from the same species, Daucus carota L. There are several subspecies of D. carota that have evolved to different climates and atmospheres. Two examples of these subspecies are specifically from the Netherlands. D. carota subsp. sativus has roots that can be a wide range of colors. It has a thicker root and sweeter taste. The whorl of barbs above the spine on the vallecular ridges of the mericarp of D. carota subsp. sativus mature very well. D. carota subsp. carota has white roots that do not vary in color and, unlike D. carota subsp. sativus, has a thin root, bitter taste and are not edible. The middle umbellet of D. carota subsp. carota is not well developed (unlike in D. carota subsp. sativus) and the color of the flower can vary from red to deep purple.[21]


The following subtaxa are accepted:[2]

  • Daucus carota var. abyssinicus A.Braun
  • Daucus carota subsp. annuus (Bég.) Mart.Flores, D.M.Spooner & M.B.Crespo
  • Daucus carota subsp. azoricus Franco
  • Daucus carota subsp. cantabricus A.Pujadas
  • Daucus carota subsp. capillifolius (Gilli) Arbizu
  • Daucus carota subsp. caporientalis Reduron
  • Daucus carota subsp. carota
  • Daucus carota subsp. commutatus (Paol.) Thell.
  • Daucus carota subsp. corsoccidentalis Reduron
  • Daucus carota subsp. drepanensis (Arcang.) Heywood
  • Daucus carota subsp. fontanesii Thell.
  • Daucus carota subsp. gadecaei (Rouy & E.G.Camus) Heywood
  • Daucus carota subsp. gummifer (Syme) Hook.f.
  • Daucus carota subsp. halophilus (Brot.) A.Pujadas
  • Daucus carota subsp. hispanicus (Gouan) Thell.
  • Daucus carota subsp. major (Vis.) Arcang.
  • Daucus carota subsp. majoricus A.Pujadas
  • Daucus carota subsp. maritimus (Lam.) Batt.
  • Daucus carota subsp. maximus (Desf.) Ball
  • Daucus carota var. meriensis Reduron
  • Daucus carota subsp. otaportensis Reduron
  • Daucus carota subsp. rupestris (Guss.) Heywood
  • Daucus carota subsp. sativus (Hoffm.) Schübl. & G.Martens
  • Daucus carota subsp. tenuissimus (A.Chev.) Mart.Flores, D.M.Spooner & M.B.Crespo
  • Daucus carota subsp. valeriae Reduron

Distribution and habitat

Native to temperate regions of Europe[4] and southwest Asia, the plant was spread to North America and Australia.

The plant is commonly found along roadsides and in unused fields. It thrives best in sun to partial shade.[5]


Skin contact with the foliage of Daucus carota, especially wet foliage, can cause skin irritation in some people.[22][23] It may also have a mild effect on horses.[24]

The compound falcarinol is naturally found in Daucus carota for protection against fungal diseases. Lab tests show the compound to be toxic to mice and the water flea Daphnia magna.[25] Normal consumption of carrots has no toxic effect in humans.[26]


Like the cultivated carrot, the D. carota root is edible while young, but it quickly becomes too woody to consume. The flowers are sometimes battered and fried. The leaves and seeds are also edible.[5]

D. carota bears a close resemblance to poison hemlock, and the leaves of the wild carrot may cause phytophotodermatitis,[27][23] so caution should also be used when handling the plant. The seeds and flowers have been used as a method of contraception and an abortifacient for centuries.[28][29][30] If used as a dyestuff, the flowers give a creamy, off-white color.

D. carota, when freshly cut, will draw or change color depending on the color of the water in which it is held. This effect is only visible on the "head" or flower of the plant. Carnations also exhibit this effect. This occurrence is a popular science demonstration in grade school.

Beneficial weed

This beneficial weed can be used as a companion plant to crops. Like most members of the umbellifer family, it attracts wasps to its small flowers in its native land; however, where it has been introduced, it attracts very few wasps. In northeast Wisconsin, when introduced with blueberries it did succeed in attracting butterflies and wasps.[31] This species is also documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby, and it can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce, when intercropped with it.[32] However, the states of Iowa, Michigan, and Washington have listed it as a noxious weed,[33] and it is considered a serious pest in pastures. It persists in the soil seed bank for two to five years.[34]


Several different factors can cause the root of a carrot to have abnormal metabolites (notably 6-methoxymellin) that can cause a bitter taste in the roots. For example, carrots have a bitterer taste when grown in the presence of apples. Also, ethylene can easily produce stress, causing a bitter taste.[35]


Daucus carota was introduced and naturalized in North America, where it is often known as Queen Anne's lace. Both Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and her great-grandmother, Anne of Denmark, are taken to be the Queen Anne for whom the plant is named.[36] It is so called because the flower resembles lace, prominent in fine clothing of the day; the red flower in the center is said to represent a droplet of blood where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was making the lace.

History through artwork

The history of Daucus carota and its cultivation in different parts of the world can be traced back through historical texts and artwork. Paintings from the 16th and 17th century, for example, that are of maids in a market or farmers' most recent crops can provide information on carrots' history. Studying such paintings shows that yellow or red roots were cultivated in Turkey, North Africa, and Spain. Orange roots were cultivated in 17th century Netherlands.[37]

References in poetry

Queen Anne's Lace is the title and subject of a poem by William Carlos Williams published in the 1921 collection titled Sour Grapes.

See also

  • Daucus pusillus, American wild carrot


  1. Collett, L., Korpelainen, H., Draper Munt, D., Labokas, J., Magos Brehm, J., Tavares, M., Eliáš, P., Strajeru, S., Smekalova, T. & Bulińska, Z. 2011. Daucus carota. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T172210A6849906. Downloaded on 02 July 2021.
  2. "Daucus carota L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved March 20, 2022.
  3. Ontario Weeds: Wild carrot
  4. Spellenberg, Richard (2001) [1979]. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers: Western Region (rev ed.). Knopf. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-375-40233-3.
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  6. A field guide to wildflowers: northeastern and north-central North America, Peterson, Roger Tory, and Margaret McKenny. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1968. p. 48 Retrieved on 27 March 2017.
  7. McClintock, David; Fitter, R. S. R. (1956). The Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers. Collins. p. 103.
  8. Wurtele, E S; Wang, H; Durgerian, S; Nikolau, B J; Ulrich, T H (May 1993). "Characterization of a gene that is expressed early in somatic embryogenesis of Daucus carota". Plant Physiology. 102 (1): 303–312. doi:10.1104/pp.102.1.303. PMC 158776. PMID 8108498.
  9. Faulkner, Herbert Waldron (1917). The Mysteries of the Flowers. Frederick A. Stokes. p. 210.
  10. Noxious weeds: Poison-hemlock, King County, Washington
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  12. Garms, Gabe. "How to Tell the Difference Between Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace". Raven's Roots.
  13. Darwin, Charles. The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species. --. London: JMurray, 1877.
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  16. Yeo, P.F. (December 1972). "Miscellaneous notes on pollination and pollinators". Journal of Natural History. 6 (6): 667–686. doi:10.1080/00222937200770621.
  17. Goulson, David; Mcguire, Kate; Munro, Emma E.; Adamson, Susan; Colliar, Louise; Park, Kirsty J.; Tinsley, Matthew C.; Gilburn, Andre S. (August 2009). "Functional significance of the dark central floret of Daucus carota (Apiaceae) L.; is it an insect mimic?". Plant Species Biology. 24 (2): 77–82. doi:10.1111/j.1442-1984.2009.00240.x.
  18. Linnaeus, Carolus (1753). Species Plantarum (in Latin). Vol. 1. Stockholm: Laurentii Salvii. p. 242.
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  32. Philbrick H.; Gregg R. B. Companion Plants.
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Further reading

  • Blanchan, Neltje (2005). Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
  • Bradeen, James M.; Simon, Philipp W. (2007). "Carrot". In Cole, Chittaranjan (ed.). Vegetables. Genome Mapping and Molecular Breeding in Plants. Vol. 5. New York, New York: Springer. pp. 162–184. ISBN 978-3-540-34535-0.
  • Clapham, A. R.; Tutin, T. G.; Warburg, E. F. (1962). Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press.
  • Mabey, Richard (1997). Flora Britannica. London: Chatto and Windus.
  • Rose, Francis (2006). The Wild Flower Key (edition revised and expanded by Clare O'Reilly). London: Frederick Warne. ISBN 978-0-7232-5175-0.
  • Rubatsky, V.E.; Quiros, C.F.; Siman, P.W. (1999). Carrots and Related Vegetable Umbelliferae. CABI Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85199-129-0.
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