It's summer, you look out on a field, meadow, or prairie, and find little white clouds of flowers swaying in the breeze. More often than not these are Queen Anne's Lace.
QAL is a member of the carrot family - which is made apparent when you look upon its leaves. In the center of some blossoms there lies a dark purple dot - the legend behind this, and the reason the plant has its name: Queen Anne who was excellent at making lace had pricked her finger and a solitary drop of blood landed in the center, the lacy qualities of this flower and the purplish red dot in the center make it easy to remember, especially since there are a few poisonous species that look quite similar.
One of the main look-alikes, and the most deadly is the poison hemlock.
Some of the main differences between the two are:
QAL - hairy stem. PH - smooth stem with purple blotches.
QAL - purple dot in center. PH - no purple dot.
QAL - 3 pronged bracts under the umbrella like flower head. PH - no bracts.
In fact QAL is the only one in the family to have the bracts under the flower!
Queen Anne's Lace is a biennial, spending its first year as a low to the ground basal rosette of lacy carrot-like leaves. When in its first year, the tuberous root is edible - during the second year it gets quite woody and is less palatable. However, in the second year, the flowerheads can be boiled and made into tea (always make sure you have a proper ID, remember how drinking poison hemlock worked out for Socrates?)
It's not recommended for pregnant or trying to be pregnant women to drink this tea due to an on going debate about its qualities as a contraceptive.
As with most lovely plants found in abundance, this is a non-native invasive, brought from Europe for its medicinal qualities when the settlers arrived. There is a native carrot species that looks quite similar but does not have the dot in the center (among other various differences). If you're trying to control the QAL at your home, it's recommended to mow the area before the seed heads form, it may take a few years as it's a biennial and the seeds may have a prolonged period that they may remain dormant but active.
One of my favorite childhood memories is just laying in a field of QAL watching the clouds, the fragrance from the QAL filling the air. Ah simpler times.
If you're local, go check out Barne's Preserve right now, the meadow is in full QAL bloom glory, enjoy the smell, watch as they dance in the breeze.
(Remember - don't pick wildflowers from public areas, it's illegal and rude)
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.