There's an interesting white, spindly, flowering plant that always catches my eye this time of year: Queen Anne's Lace. You've begun to see it along Wildwood and Eureka roadways, ditches and open fields.
Also called "Wild Carrot," it was introduced in the United States from Europe. Modern-day carrots were cultivated from this plant, according to ecological sources. Some now consider it a weed, though.
Queen Anne's Lace grows up to four feet tall. Its leaves are two to eight inches long and fern-like, according to plant education sources. This plant is best known for its flowers, which are tiny and white, blooming in lacy, flat-topped clusters. Each little flower has a dark, purplish center.
The fruits of Queen Anne's Lace are spiky, and curl inward to build a "birds' nest" shape.
This plant blooms from May to October. It is a biennial plant, which means it lives for two years. It will spend the first year growing bigger, and then bloom the second year.
People can eat the large, carrotish taproot of Queen Anne's Lace. The leaves of the plant, though, are toxic, and may irritate the skin. Note that plant experts indicate there is a similar-looking plant, called Water Hemlock, which is deadly to eat, however—be extremely sure in identifications of these plants. One source suggests a key identifying characteristic is a hairy stem: "just remember Queen Anne has hairy legs!"
People plant Queen Anne's Lace in their gardens to attract insect predators, such as Green Lacewings and ant lions. Queen Anne's Lace works by first luring aphids and other small pests, which in turn attract the predators. Once the predators are present, they will continue to eat pests throughout gardens, to assist with natural control.
One online resource indicates for centuries some women have used the seeds from this plant, Daucus carota, as a contraceptive, with the earliest written reference dating to the late 5th or 4th century B.C. appearing in a work written by Hippocrates.