What Is Queen Anne’s Lace?

What Is Queen Anne’s Lace?

Spring and summer are approaching in the northern hemisphere. When I think of the early, hot days of that time of year, my thoughts go to the white of Queen Anne’s Lace mixed with the brilliant blue flower of chicory. Frequently growing together, they bordered many country roadsides I walked or biked. Full appreciation of these plants, swaying in the breeze on a bright sunny day, can best be experienced on foot. The prominent of the two, Queen Anne’s Lace, interacts with a one of the main characters in my upcoming novel, Three Remain. Realizing I knew little about Queen Anne’s Lace other than the warm, glowing sensation imparted by its beauty in nature, I set out to gain some knowledge about the plant.

Summer Landscape Queen Annes Lace

Art by Karen Margulis

Other Names for Queen Anne’s Lace
• Wild Carrot—Apparently, this is the true name.
• Daucus carota—Scientific identification for those speaking Latin.
• Bird’s Nest—Obvious why when the flower curls upward, becoming cup-like.
• Bishop’s Lace—Bishops wear lace too?
• Devil’s Plague—Hmmm…possibly Queen Anne’s Lace is to devils as garlic is to vampires.
• Rantipole—Definition of the word is “a wild reckless sometimes quarrelsome person.”

Art by Elizabeth Ellison

What is Queen Anne’s Lace?
Considered by some as a wildflower, and by others as an invasive, aggressive weed, Queen Anne’s Lace is a wild carrot. The root is edible, and today’s garden and grocery store carrot is a direct descendant of it. Be careful here: wild carrot is very similar to poison hemlock which has life-threatening toxicity. It is important to research identification between the two before considering eating Queen Anne’s Lace. One important difference is smell. Queen Anne’s Lace smells like carrots when crushed.

Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial plant, usually growing to a height of 3 to 4 feet. The white “flower” is made up of many small flowers, giving it a lacy appearance. There is frequently a red or purple flower at the center which attracts insects. Queen Anne’s Lace is native to temperate areas of Europe and southwest Asia. It was naturalized to Australia, North America, and other parts of the world. Probably coming across the Atlantic during United States colonial times along with bags of grain, Queen Anne’s Lace spread across the continental United States and most of Canada.

How Queen Anne’s Lace Got Its Name
Queen Anne’s Lace is an American name, but these are some of the claims as to how it got its name:
• Because its descriptive the lacy structure of the flowers.
• Named after Queen Anne of Great Britain who is often pictured wearing lace.
• In honor of Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of lace makers.
My bets go with a combination of its appearance and Queen Anne’s notoriety wearing lace.

Queen Anne

Interesting Uses of the Queen Anne’s Lace Plant:
• Medical—Itchy skin, cancer prevention, morning after contraceptive, kidney stones, diuretic, bactericidal, lower blood sugar, and a mild laxative. The list goes on, but I’ll end it here.
• Tea with some of the benefits listed above.
• Food—As a form of carrot when the root is young and tender.
• Can be used to make paper.
• For a creamy white dye.
• Crop growth by attracting wasps for pollination of nearby plants or providing a microclimate of cooler, moister air.
• Rituals and spells for increasing fertility in women and sexual desire in men.
• And one of the most interesting of all…it has been known to cause slight intoxication in large mammals like cattle and horses. So, if you want to have a drinking night with your horse, you may want to consider Queen Anne’s Lace (for the horse).

Superstitions and Myths concerning Queen Anne’s Lace
The plant (known at the time as rantipole or reckless wanderer) got its name when Queen Anne challenged her ladies-in-waiting to a contest to see who could make lace as exquisite as the rantipole growing in the garden. In the haste of competition, Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace. The reddish-purple dot at the center of the flower represents her drop of blood on the lace she was making.
According to an old English superstition, the small purple flower in at the center of Queen Anne’s lace will help cure epilepsy.
Another superstition claims if you bring the plant in your house your mother would die. That is why the plant is called “Mother Die” by those that harbor that belief.

Resource for Additional Information on Queen Anne’s Lace

The World Carrot Museum

or The Wild Carrot


This subject prompted by the following passage from the upcoming novel, Three Remain:

Seeing a curve in the road ahead showing in the headlights and brightening sky, she glanced at the map again to locate her next turn. In an instant, she felt the car swerve. Her eyes darting back to the road, she saw a tree, rather than the road, rushing toward her. Starting to wrench the steering wheel to the left, her world changed with a deafening bang and a punch into her chest. Gasping to inhale a breath, her ears ringing, the woman pushed the airbag out of the way, opened the door, tumbling onto the ground. Her cheek felt gravel beneath it. The mixed aromas of Queen Anne’s Lace and earth subjugated her senses as consciousness slipped away.

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