DAUCUS CAROTA ssp MAXIMUS
Family:- UMBELLIFERAE/Sect. DAUCUS
Common Names:- Wild carrot.
Meaning:- Daucus (L) Latin name for carrot.
Carota (Gr) Old Greek name for carrot.
Maximus (L) Largest, greatest.
General description:- Very variable, short to tall, hairy or hairless annual or
Stems:- 10-100(-150) cm, hairless (glabrous) to having stiff bristly hairs (hispid),
solid, usually ridged.
Leaves:- Feathery, with narrow and parallel-sided or lance-shaped segments, long-
stalked; uppermost leaves often bract-like.
Flowers:- Umbels 5-10 cm, white, concave, flat or convex, with a variable number
of rays, usually with one or several flowers in the centre of the umbel, purple,
occasionally the whole umbel purplish; bracts pinnately-lobed.
Fruit:- Oblong, 2-4 mm long , shortly spiny; rays becoming incurved and bunched
in 9 fruit.
1) Lower leaves 2- to 3-pinnate, with petiolulate lobes which do not appear to be
2) Spines on secondary ridges of the mericarp simple or 2-pointed, not confluent at
the base, not longer than the width of the mericarp, usually stellulate.
3) Terminal umbels (10-)12-20(-30) cm across.
4) Tap-root slender, white.
Habitat:- Rough grassy habitats, roadsides, hilIslopes, sandy and stony pastures,
cultivated ground, seashores. 0-900(-1400) m.
Distribution:- Widespread and common throughout the Mediterranean. Widespread
and common on Crete.
Flowering time:- Apr-Aug
Photos by:- Steve Lenton
FAMILY AND GENUS DESCRIPTIONS
General description:- Herbs, rarely shrubs.
Leaves:- Alternate; lamina usually large and much-divided; petiole often inflated
and sheathing at base. Stipules absent.
The primary divisions of the leaves are referred to as segments and the ultimate
divisions, cut nearly or quite to the midrib, as lobes. The lobes may themselves
sometimes be deeply lobed. The leaves are never truly pinnate, but are described
as pinnate, for brevity, when the lamina is divided to the midrib.
Flowers:- Inflorescence usually a compound umbel. Flowers epigynous, small,
hermaphrodite or unisexual, the plant rarely dioecious. Sepals usually small or
absent; petals 5, usually more or less 3-lobed, the middle lobe inflexed; outer
petals sometimes much larger than inner (radiate); stamens 5; carpels (1-)2,
usually attached to a central axis (carpophore), from which the mericarps separate
at maturity; styles (1-)2, often with a thickened base (stylopodium); ovule 1 in each
Descriptions of umbels refer to the terminal, or other well-developed umbel: lateral
umbels are often smaller, with fewer rays, and may be entirely male. Bracts are the
structures which subtend the primary branches (rays) of a compound umbel, and
bracteoles are those which subtend the partial umbel, or the whole of a simple
umbel. When the stylopodium is described, the description refers to the
stylopodium of a hermaphrodite flower.
Fruit:- Dry; pericarp membranous or exocarp variously indurated; endocarp rarely
woody. Mericarps usually joined by a narrow or wide commissure; each mericarp
more or less compressed laterally or dorsally, with 5 longitudinal veins, usually with
ridges over them, separated by valleculae or sometimes with 4 secondary ridges
alternating with the primary; resin canals (vittae) usually present between the
primary ridges and on the commissural face.
Descriptions of the ridges of the fruit refer to the primary ridges, unless otherwise
Ripe fruit is essential for the certain identification of some genera, though with a
little experience the characters of the ripe fruit can often be deduced from a careful
examination of unripe fruit or even the ovary.
Leaves:- 2- to 3-pinnate.
Flowers:- Bracts several, usually pinnatisect. Sepals small or obsolete. Petals
white, yellowish or purplish, the outer often radiate; apex inflexed.
Fruit:- Ellipsoid to ovoid, cylindrical or somewhat compressed dorsally; primary
ridges thread-like (filiform), fringed with hairs (ciliate); secondary ridges with a
single row of spines.
1) Both mericarps similar.
2) Fruit with broad, or tubercle-based prickles arranged in 1-3 rows on the ridges.
3) At least some bracts 3-fid or pinnatisect.
Leaves:- Leaf-lobes petiolulate.
Flowers:- Umbels pedunculate. Styles medium to long, erecto-patent.
MEDICINAL AND HERBAL USES, MYTHOLOGY AND FOLKLORE
Researched and written by Enda McMullen
Daucus Carota or wild carrot is prolific on the island of Crete. It is an extremely
useful plant, but has the serious drawback that it an almost look-alike for its deadly
poisonous cousins water hemlock (cicuta maculate) and poisonous hemlock
(conium maculatum). It has another rather poisonous look-alike in Fool’s Parsley
(aethusa cynapium) which does not grow on Crete. It is not related to the American,
non-poisonous hemlock tree, which also doesn’t occur on Crete.
It is important to know how to tell the difference if you go wild-foraging. There are a
number of differences which make distinguishing between a nice meal and a deadly
one fairly easy, but be careful, and if not certain, don’t use it!
Wild carrot is also knows as Bird’s nest because of the appearance of the flowers
before they open and bloom. Another folk name for the plant is “Queen Anne’s
Lace”. This is one to remember, because it points to a number of distinguishing
characteristics between the wild carrot and its deadly cousins. It allegedly got the
name from the British Queen Anne, born in 1664. She was married off to Prince
George of Denmark at the age of nineteen. She was an excellent lace-maker and
was indeed known far and wide for her ability to produce wonderful lace patterns.
She challenged her ladies in waiting to a contest to see who could reproduce the
pattern of the wild carrot flower in lace, and strangely enough, ended up producing
the winning entry herself… Ever since, the wild carrot has been known in England
as “Queen Anne’s Lace”, a name it carried with it when it was introduced to the
Americas by British immigrants.
According to my grandmother “Queen Anne has hairy legs”, which is a reference to
the hairy stems of the plant as opposed to the smooth stems of the hemlocks.
Another difference regarding the stems is that the stem of the wild carrot is solid,
that of the hemlock is hollow. And also on stems, the hemlock stems display at
least a dark purple line running down the length of the stem (sometimes it can be
completely purple). Wild carrot stems do not display this discolouring.
The flower of the wild carrot has a purple to black “button” in the centre, which is
absent in the hemlock flower. The tiny leaves of the wild carrot flower have a tiny
pink dot in them, also absent in the hemlock flowers.
When in doubt, another way to find out is to take some leaves of the plant and
crush them between your fingers. If it smells like carrot, it is carrot. If it stinks, it’s
hemlock and you must wash your hands immediately and thoroughly.
The wild root is edible, however, the root must be pulled when it is young because
the high content of Xylem tissue makes it turn woody and inedible very early on in
its life. The root is whitish and when crushed smells of carrot.
Once you have the plant properly identified, you have a wonderful source of natural
medicine at your disposal. Dioscorides asserts that the best specimen for
medicinal use come from Crete.
Wild Carrot tea is an age-old remedy to draw down delayed menstruation. It also
helps in combatting difficulties with urination, dropsy and pleurisy. It sooths the
digestive tract and stimulates the uterus. Wild carrot anything is therefore off-limits
for pregnant women.
The seeds of the wild carrot are the forerunner of today’s morning after pill. Dried
seeds were used to make the uterus contract sufficiently to terminate a possible
pregnancy immediately. How effective the seeds were is not knows, but studies
have confirmed it is well within the possibilities of the seeds having that effect.
An infusion made from fresh leaves (make sure they smell like carrot!) is very
effective in cleansing the urinary tract and the kidneys. It is known that it will
diminish the size of already formed kidney stones, thereby enabling easier
Wild carrot leaves contain significant amounts of porphyrins, which stimulate the
pituitary gland and lead to the release of increased levels of sex hormones. This is
probably the reason why wild carrot got its reputation as an aphrodisiac.
Crushed leaves, mixed with honey, make a very potent “salve” to sooth and heal
In ancient folklore, it was said that eating the little black button in the centre of the
flower cured epilepsy.