The WALA Plant Library

Synonyms for Carrot: Bird's Nest, Bee's Nest, Queen Anne's Lace
Scientific Name: Daucus carota L.
Family: Umbelliferae


The carrot a medicinal herb? When you think of carrots you are more likely to think of using them for cooking or of munching them raw as a healthy snack. So you will probably wonder what this vegetable is doing amongst the portraits of medicinal herbs. But, as we shall see, the orange root shouldn't be underestimated. And what's more: there were times when a reader would have wondered what carrots were doing in soups and stews. But more about that later.

The carrot which comes to our table is the product of a long period of cultivation and is derived from its wild sister, the wild carrot. When you look at the root of the wild variety, which is found on meadows and at the edges of fields, it is hard to imagine that this could be the ancestor of our fleshy, succulent garden carrot. The spindle-shaped root of the wild carrot is dry and woody and only its smell is reminiscent of our root vegetable. The flower, which we seldom see with our garden carrot, is impressive. Fully grown, the biennial plant reaches a height of up to one metre in its second year. The woody stem, softly embraced by the finely divided leaves, is crowned throughout the summer and into October by flattened white flowerheads, the terminal umbels, almost as big as the palm of a hand. The umbels are composed of numerous small individual blossoms which are all arranged in a single plane. Wild carrot is easy to distinguish from the other members of the large Umbelliferae family by having a few single flowers at the centre of the umbel which are deep purple in colour. The garden carrot has lost this feature in the course of its cultivation. Instead, it has a reddish-orange root which is, in turn, lacking in the wild variety in which the root is white. As the flower fades it contracts, giving it the appearance of a nest for its ripening fruits. These carry numerous small bristles on their surface as noticeable feature.