More than just a pretty weed
by Carla Allen
I admit it was a bit devious, but it worked.
Nintendo is infinitely more appealing to a 7 year old boy, than
spending an afternoon in the nursery pulling weeds from the ground.
But when I explained my predicament to Chas, he was eager to help.
"You see Chas, there's this Queen and her army....they're taking
over the nursery, crowding out all of my good plants and I really need
help! I've got a pair of Rose Warrior gloves here that are quite
special. If you wear them you'll be able to battle that Queen and all
of the soldiers surrounding her!"
"Let's go Mom!", he replied, flexing his rubber sheathed
fingers with anticipation. We worked steadily for about 1/2 an hour,
yanking out most of the Queen Anne's Lace which had indeed been taking
over the nursery beds. At the end of the session they lay in a giant
It doesn't matter if it's a dry hot summer or cold wet one - this
common roadside weed performs regally every summer. Queen Anne's Lace
is sometimes called `wild carrot.' The species name for this ferny
plant with the elegant, white lacy flowers is "Daucus carota",
the same one used for cultivated carrots. That doesn't mean they are
the same plant, however, anymore than broccoli is the same as
cauliflower (both also have the same species name). As a member of the
carrot family it has a long taproot and lacy leaves. Dig up and crush
a Queen Anne's Lace root and you will find that it smells just like a
carrot. It's edible when young but the root (especially the center)
soon gets tough and woody due to the high content of xylem tissue. The
domestic carrot is a genetic variant that lacks most of this tissue.
Modern strains have been selected and crossed over several centuries
for large, good-tasting roots. Queen Anne's Lace can be found in
abundance throughout many provinces. It's a tempting plant for those
who dry or craft wild material because of its beautiful blooms.
Unfortunately the delicate beauty does not hold its shape or colour if
picked and hung to dry. It curls up into a nest shape, which is fine
if you're looking to add it as an accent to a wreath or dry
arrangement. The blooms do however press beautifully, becoming similar
to crocheted doilies in pliability and appearance when dried. You can
spray paint them and attach thread for hanging afterwards. One fable
associated with the name of this plant describes the occasion of Queen
Anne of England pricking her finger while working on lace, staining
the lace with blood. If you look closely, you'll notice that each
large `flower' has many small white florets with a red/purple dot in
the middle. A bit of trivia: Queen Anne's Lace is also known as Mother
Die, because if you brought it into your house, according to
superstition, your mother would die. Here's a little project you can
do with the kids; cut the flowers, put them in a glass with water
colored with food dye and watch the blooms change color.
The medicinal properties of Queen Anne's Lace are many. The whole
herb may be collected and dried for tea. It's interesting to note that
this plant is the closest living relative (on the basis of family and
medicinal activity) to Silphion, which was picked and used by the
Romans as a culinary spice and contraceptive until it became extinct
in the first century AD. Apparently it was extremely effective.
Supposedly Nero was given the last remaining root. In the late 1980s
scientists began studying Queen Anne's Lace and found that (in mice at
least) it blocked the production of progesterone and inhibited fetal
and ovarian growth. Today, in some parts of rural United States, this
herb is used as a sort of morning-after contraceptive by women who
drink a teaspoonful of the seeds with a glass of water immediately
after sex. A good friend, who is master herbalist, told me he tried to
persuade a few couples to test this herb for this purpose in the past
but could not find any volunteers for a field trial. Can't say as I
blame them! The seeds are also used for the prevention and washing out
of gravel and urinary stones. As they are high in volatile oil, some
find them soothing to the digestive system, useful for colic and
flatulence. Be very, very sure that if you do decide to harvest any
part of Queen Anne's Lace for consumption that you have the correct
plant. It is similar to Hemlock (Conium maculatum), an herb which was
used medicinally but is now seldom used because of its high toxicity.
I've mistakenly identified first year seedlings of this biennial plant
as caraway, digging up large clumps of it to give to a friend.
Luckily, she lives by the ocean and wasn't too disappointed to add
Queen Anne's Lace to her list of plants that survive in her rugged