Wild carrot

Daucus carota (wild carrot, Queen Anne's lace, many other common names)

This species was brought to the US by early European settlers. It has spread widely and is now considered to be naturalized in many places. In some places it can be considered invasive.  Here on the trail, we wouldn't plant it but we don't pull it out when we see it. 

Most experts think that this plant is the ancestor of our cultivated carrots. The roots of wild plants may be red or other colors instead of orange, and it's not a good idea to collect these to eat. Although this is a relative of parsley, dill and other edible plants, many similar plants, like poison hemlock, are quite toxic. 

The individual flowers of this plant are tiny, and they occur in characteristic groups called compound umbels. The picture at the top of the page shows part of one of the compound umbels. The close-up at the left shows an interesting feature of this species--often there is a single maroon flower in the center (see picture at left).  It is possible that this somehow helps to attract pollinators. 

Wild carrot is pretty beneficial to pollinators; the flowers are visited by many beneficial insects and some  butterfly larvae feed on the leaves.  Animals like deer may eat the leaves but it tends not to be their favorite food, probably because of bitterish oils in the stems and leaves.