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Originally native to southern Europe, the Queen Anne’s Lace plant now grows throughout Canada and the United States. Also known as wild carrot or Daucus carota, it is a biennial member of the parsley family. It can be seen in well-maintained gardens as well as growing wild along roadsides and in fields. The tiny seeds from the flat-clustered blooms are spread easily by the wind and can quickly overrun the countryside. It is edible in some instances but proceed with extreme caution and with experienced, professional guidance.
A biennial plant like Queen Anne's Lace takes two years to complete its life cycle. In the first season, the plant grows and produces stems, leaves and roots and then goes through a dormancy period during the cooler months. The second season, after the dormancy period, the plant produces flowers and subsequently dies the following winter.
The root of the wild carrot is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked when the root is still young and tender. The seeds are used for flavoring stews and soups. Prior to ingesting any part of the Queen Anne’s Lace plant, however, it is vital that it be properly identified by a knowledgeable source as it closely resembles the poisonous hemlock plant. One difference between the wild carrot plant and the hemlock plant is that the wild carrot has a hairy stem and the poisonous hemlock plant has a smooth and hollow, purple-mottled stem.
Queen Anne's Lace is also valued for its medicinal purposes. The root contains high levels of Vitamin A and minerals and, when made into a juice, it is thought to have anti-cancer properties. The seeds are said to be beneficial in soothing the digestive tract, stimulating urine flow, and aiding women with menstruation problems by stimulating the uterus. Other medicinal qualities of Queen Anne’s Lace include aiding with gout by eliminating uric acid from the body. Individuals with sensitive skin should handle Queen Anne’s Lace with care as the leaves have been known to cause a mild rash and skin irritability.
Queen Anne’s Lace is a very versatile plant. Although it is loved by many for its flowers and medicinal qualities, it is disfavored by others for its invasive weed-like characteristics. Only persons knowledgeable in herbal medicine should attempt to use Queen Anne's Lace for its purported healing properties as there are several poisonous look-alike plants which can cause death when ingested.