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Wild Flower Fellowship

My Love of Wild Carrot (Daucus Carota)

Published by lucy grove on Fri 23 September 2016
   
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Since starting my Wild Flower Fellowship, I’ve been asked on a number of occasions ‘so what’s your favourite wild flower?’ and it doesn’t take me long to answer – Daucus Carota or the Wild Carrot. I’ve loved this flower since I first took an interest in all things botanical.

It’s a relatively common species, found in many types of habitat such as grasslands and cliffs, but it is especially found in calcareous soils near the sea. But the glee for me is in the finding and identifying of it.

For anyone new to wild flower identification the Umbellifer family, within which Wild carrot falls, is often quite a tricky and daunting affair. From thumbing through my wild flower guide there are dozens of umberlliferous species, that all look quite similar!

But the Wild carrot has a wonderful little secret, that to this day I delight in searching for when I come across a plant. The attractive flower is a compound inflorescence made up of many small, white flowers but at its centre there is a central floret that is dark crimson in colour! Some of these crimson florets can be seen from afar, but often you have to take a very close look into the flower head, pealing apart the other flowers to see where it is hiding. 

 

The crimson jewel often hidden at the centre of the flowerhead
The crimson jewel often hidden at the centre of the flowerhead

 

I love finding this jewel and pondering its presence. There are a number of theories about its potential benefit to the plant. Some believe the ‘spot’ mimics a blood spot to attract fly pollinators, or for attracting wasp predators who think the spot may be a some tasty fly prey. Another theory is that its function is related to parasitism, potentially duping parasites into thinking a gall is already present and therefore protecting it against future attack. 

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Looking at Wild carrot from a seed harvesting perspective, it is a very late crop. The plants are still flowering in August and will not be ready for harvest before September.

The plant has a fabulous feature in that as the seeds are ripening the head curls inwards forming a distinct cup like structure. This cup forms a wonderful habitat for many insects, especially spiders, which can often be found by softly poking your nose inside for a look. 

Wonderful cup like structures are formed as the seeds develop
Wonderful cup like structures are formed as the seeds develop

 

The seeds themselves are around 2-4mm in diameter and have spiny ridges. Through attaching to the fur of passing animals the Wild carrot can then spread its seeds.

I would fully recommend taking the time to try and find this plant next time you are out on a walk, studying it a little closer. Maybe even growing some in your garden to allow you to study its life cycle up close. It is truly a lovely wild plant! 

 

Wild carrot in flower and various stages of seed development
Wild carrot in flower and various stages of seed development