Q is for Queen Anne’s Lace

Written by Kerry E.B. Black

Two Queens, Anne of Great Britain and her great grandmother, Anne of Denmark, loved the flowers of the Daucus carota or wild carrot because it resembles lace. In this way, the plant became known as Queen Anne’s lace. The small red flower in the center of the flower represents a droplet of blood where the needle-working queen pricked her finger in the diligent creation of the fine lace. Other names for the white-flowering plant include bird’s nest and bishop’s lace.

Carl Linnaeus first described the wild carrot in his 1753 “Species Plantarum.” Because of its elegant and lacy appearance, some modern brides carry the flowery caps of the plant. In floral language, Queen Anne’s Lace mean ‘sanctuary.’ The biennial blooms in the summer and grows wild over much of the northern United States. Its off-white inspired PPG Pittsburgh Paints to create a latex interior color.

Herbaceous and prolific, this member of the Umbelliferae family grows to two feet in height. Like its relative the cultivated carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace produces an edible root, but it is best enjoyed when the plant is young. As it matures, the root becomes woody. Historically, the leaves have been used for contraception and abortifacient, and the cell sap can cause skin irritation. Farmers plant Queen Anne’s Lace as a companion for tomatoes and lettuce. It attracts bumble bees, lady bugs, lacewings, and hoverflies. Because of its resemblance to poison hemlock, however, caution should be exerted when gathering and handling.

A traditional British song begins, “With every golden curl in place, she’s as fine as Queen Anne’s Lace…” However, a superstition involving the plant involves matricide. Some believe Queen Anne’s Lace in the house brings about mom’s death. Thus another nick-name is “mother die.” Also, because of its tenacity and naturalizing, Wild Carrot is classified as an invasive and noxious weed that outperforms native prairie wild flowers.

Jennifer Reeser, Williams, and Leo L. Amadore included the flower in their poetry, and Genevieve Smith Whitford named her collection of assembled poetry after the plant. Wayne Sapp wrote a Nither poem “Queen Anne’s Lace” which includes a refrain, “…but as for me I’d sooner see a field of Queen Anne’s Lace…” Frances Parkinson Keyes wrote a novel for young people titled “Queen Anne’s Lace,” and children’s author Elizabeth Howard called her memoir “Queen Anne’s Lace and Wild Blackberry Pie.”

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