Queen Anne’s lace is a pretty flower you’ve likely seen growing in fields and along roadsides your whole life. Also known as wild carrot, this delicate-looking beauty is edible and medicinal. Queen Anne’s lace flower has rich folklore, and distinct identifying factors to go with it. Easy to find, important to identify properly, and with tons of uses, don’t miss the Queen on your next foraging trip!
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About Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
Queen Anne’s lace is a flower with a Victorian vibe that looks just like its name – lace! It seems to have been around forever, and it has many uses, folklore tales, and a rich history to go with its resilient nature.
In truth, this plant is as practical as it is pretty. Known as wild carrot, it has edible roots, flowers, leaves, and seeds. It’s an herbaceous biennial plant, which means it will grow two years in a row.
Sometimes beginning with a pink tinge, Queen Anne’s lace blooms with beautiful white flowers that are quite useful, and often have a single dark reddish purple floret in the middle.
This lace flower is said to have been named after Queen Anne, who was an avid lacemaker. It’s been told that while sewing she pricked her finger and a drop of blood stained the middle of her lace flower, resembling this wildflower.
Queen Anne’s lace flowers are known for their beauty, and you may hear them called a “bishops flower.” This name has led these resilient flowers to be a symbol of safety, refuge, and sanctuary.
Some historians believe that Queen Anne’s lace flower was named after Queen Anne ll, who had 18 pregnancies but only one surviving child, associating the flower with miscarriage.
It’s hard to know where exactly the name came from, but each of these stories has important connections to make and remember about Queen Anne’s Lace.
The first is the identifying dark dot in the middle. The second is that although there are toxic look-alikes, this flower is safe to consume as well as medicinal. The third is a dark reminder that pregnant women should not consume Queen Anne’s lace.
Where to Find Queen Anne’s Lace
Found worldwide in temperate regions, Queen Anne’s lace grows in the summer and fall in full sun and rocky soils. As I said, she’s strong and resilient!
This Queen finds her home in unlikely places with dry soils. You’ll see these lacy flowers standing powerfully along roadsides, in meadows and fields, pastures, and other disturbed areas.
Queen Anne’s lace is a very common flower that most everyone has seen at one time or another!
Queen Anne’s Lace Identification
There are several key identifying attributes to Queen Anne’s lace, and they’re very important to remember since this plant has some look-a-likes. Be sure that you identify several of these features, not just one, before harvesting.
Queen Anne’s lace has umbel shaped flowers that have lower bracts with three prongs. Sometimes early flowers have a pink tinge, but are white once they are in full bloom.
Once the flowers open they often, but not always, have a single dark red or purple dot in the center. This is a distinct feature, however, my guess is that it’s only there around 75% of the time, so don’t rely solely on it.
As the flowers age they curl up into a “bird’s nest” shape and will stay like this through the fall season.
The leaves are alternate, triangular in shape, and feathery. They look a little bit like parsley (which is in the same family).
The Queen Has Hairy Legs!
Always remember that the Queen has hairy legs! If it’s truly Queen Anne’s lace, the stem and stalks are hairy. This is a very important feature to pay attention to, as any potential toxic look-alikes do not have hairy stems.
The root and leaves smell like carrots since it is technically a carrot plant. This is another great way to identify because no other look-alike will have this distinct smell.
Harvesting Queen Anne’s Lace
Harvest Queen Anne’s lace flowers when they are fully open and fresh. They will be completely white except for the dark dot that often appears in the middle.
First-year roots are best when harvested in the fall before the plant goes to flower. They are less likely to be woody in their first year. Not like a cultivated carrot, the roots are smaller white carrots and taste better when cooked in soups or stews.
Because you won’t have the flower to use as an identification feature when harvesting the roots, it’s extra important to be sure that you have the right plant. If there are Queen Anne’s lace plants flowering nearby, that is one helpful sign.
This is an instance where it’s probably a good idea to really get to know that particular growing location over a couple of years before harvesting to make sure that no toxic plants are intermingling.
Only harvest from clean locations. Since seen as a weed and found along roadsides, be sure to harvest from areas that are free of chemicals and road toxins.
Some people can have a photo sensitive skin reaction to Queen Anne’s lace, so wearing gloves while harvesting is a good idea. If you get it on your skin and it’s wet with sweat or water, the sun will cause a rash.
This doesn’t happen to everyone, but if you have sensitive skin it is something to be aware of, and I recommend wearing gloves to harvest either way to be safe.
Queen Anne’s Lace Look-A-Likes
Queen Anne’s Lace vs Poison Hemlock
Poison hemlock is probably the plant that is mistaken the most for Queen Anne’s lace. Poison hemlock is very toxic.
It’s just as important to identify toxic plants as it is safe ones, so make sure to read my in-depth guide on identifying poison hemlock. The more you know, the safer you are foraging!
Poison hemlock and Queen Anne’s lace flowers can sometimes look similar, except that poison hemlock does not have the purple dot in the center of the flower.
Poison hemlock has a bald stem with purple reddish splotches, while Queen Anne’s lace has a hairy stem and no purple splotches.
Poison hemlock is a much larger plant overall, growing up to 5 or 6 feet tall. It blooms earlier in the season, so if it’s earlier in the spring and blooming, it’s more likely to be poison hemlock than Queen Anne’s lace.
Poison hemlock does not usually smell of carrots, it smells rank and definitely not like something you’d want to consume. Queen Anne’s lace always smells like carrots, as it is a wild carrot.
Another wild growing flower that looks similar to the Queen is yarrow. If you happen to mistake the two, it is nothing to worry about since yarrow is another non-toxic edible and medicinal plant.
One of the main distinguishing identification factors between Queen Anne’s lace and yarrow is that Queen Anne’s lace flower has a true umbel shape, while yarrow has a tight cluster of small, daisy-like flowers.
Yarrow also has unique frilly leaves that set it apart from Queen Anne’s lace, and any other flower. If you give it a sniff, yarrow won’t smell carrot-y either, while the Queen always will since it is wild carrot!
I have read that some can mistake giant hogweed for Queen Anne’s lace, although to me they are quite different – most notably their size! Giant hogweed is just as it sounds, GIANT.
It grows about twice as tall as poison hemlock, and has huge wide leaves that drape from it. A good rule of thumb is that if the plant is taller than you, it’s likely not Queen Anne’s lace.
The Queen is small, strong, resilient, pretty, and smells good! Giant hogweed is none of those things, and it’s extremely toxic causing painful rashes and burns.
Only the Queen for you!
While you likely will easily recognize this lacy flower and have seen it around your whole life, you may not have been aware that it is edible and delicious! If we called it wild carrot more often, it would be more obvious.
Eat the flowers fresh, put them in salads, or as a beautiful edible garnish on top of baked goods. Queen Anne’s lace flowers also make a tasty jelly and syrup, or can be lightly battered and deep fried.
Chop the leaves and use them as an herb, and the seeds have wonderful use for flavoring.
The Queen’s roots taste like carrots but can be quite woody. They are best in soups or stews that are cooked for longer periods of time.
The root carrots were traditionally made into wine, which is something I’d definitely like to try! The flowers can also be used to make wine or mead.
Queen Anne’s lace is soothing for the digestive tract, and as a diuretic, it is also good for bladder and kidney issues.
It can support and cleanse the liver, making an infusion works well for this purpose. The infusion taste like carrot tea!
Also a uterine stimulant, Queen Anne’s lace can help bring on menstruation, and the seeds have traditional use as a contraceptive. For this, it’s important to do thorough research first to be sure it will work in the way that you need.
The oil from the seeds is excellent for skin conditions as it’s anti-inflammatory and very soothing. It is also helpful for aging skin. Wild carrot seed oil also works as a natural sunscreen, it’s been proven to have some SPF!
Queen Anne’s lace should not be used by pregnant women, due to its uterine stimulation properties. If pregnant, it’s best not to consume any part of this plant.
Don’t Dismiss the Queen
This pretty flower is so common, strong, and resilient, you’re sure to have seen it around. While it grows readily and easily, don’t dismiss it as a common weed! This lacy Queen lives up to her status in every way, and she’s proud of those hairy legs!
In all seriousness though, while this beautiful easy-growing flower is a sign of summer and does have toxic look-alikes, it really lives up to its name of wild carrot just as much, as it’s delicious, nutritious, and medicinal.
No matter what you call her, don’t pass her by! The folklore has roots in reality. So, learn about the Queen, her drop of blood, her safe sanctuary, and be careful with her medicinal properties if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
Learn the look-alikes, get out and find those hairy legs, put on some gloves, and harvest this sweet carrot-smelling lace flower!