It was all over the wilderness of USA in Bloomington, Chicago, Catskill, all around the ponds, just smiling & swaying as if singing in happiness, spreading the glory all around her. Even though hundreds of flowers in bunches are very tiny, I could see the bees & other insects flocking to them. For me, it was part of my growing up… a nostalgic memory, we called it Lady-lace.. because the bunch of flowers looks like a white laced umbrella, reminding me of the lace covered umbrella we use during the wedding for both the bride & the groom. This aggressive biennial plant once found on rough grassland, road sides, & in gardens, is sadly almost extinct back home. How & why is a real mystery for me (like the vanishing sparrows in South India) as this plant even tolerates the harsh winter of North America. I could never get enough of its picture.
The pretty finely divided almost fern like aromatic leaves & delicate flat clusters of small white flowers looks as though Mother Nature created it to adorn herself with intricate lace. It can also be pictured as the lace around the colour & the middle dark standing out purple flower is the pin!! Not only that she must have thought that the flower is too pretty & to ward off the evil eye just provided a single darkly coloured floret just off center, standing tall above the rest as if to take all the evil to itself!! Now tell me….. don’t you agree nature has taken enough time to design it?? If not people at least it seems to fool/mimic & attract the insects giving false impression of an insect already sitting there, which might ensure pollination.
The petioles & flower stems are mostly hairy. When the flowers are spent/withered the umbels curls inward forming a depressed cup, giving an impression of a nest & it earned its nickname bird’s nest weed. The plant from the parsley family umbelliferae is also known as Bees’s nest (for some unknown reason you can often see bee or insect roosting on it), Queen Ann’s lace*, Bishops’s lace (did not know he wore one), devil’s plague (don’t know if the devils are as beautiful as this flower!!), fools parsley, herbe a dinde (derived from its use as a feed for young turkeys-dinde, etc., etc.
The most amazing nickname is the Mother Die after the belief that if you bring the flower home mother will die. However I am still alive & kicking so it’s just a myth perhaps to encourage little girls not to pluck & spoil the beauty of the nature.
Growing up, we occasionally ate the roots but not the leaves & flowers. Guess it’s edible but I have no idea why we did not eat. We were interested in playing with the flowers, decorating the dolls & playing house-house games. The stems are firm & flexible, won’t break easily, & the flowers do not dry fast. The root & seeds were used as medicine but I can’t remember what they were was used for. When I asked someone (my mother is no more), they told me that it’s good for kidney, liver, digestive disorder, female problems, anti-worm & supposed to increase the sexual hormones. Pregnant women are not given this, particularly the seed, as it is considered abortifacient. However, don’t take my word & start gulping it!
It’s a biennial plant also called wild carrots because of its tapering, elongate, yellowish orange or ivory edible (eaten raw or cooked) taproot, is in the parsley family (Daucus carota, carota & common domesticated carrots belongs to Daucus carota, sativus). The spindle shaped, slender, firm & woody root smells very much like carrot but once matured becomes hard. Perhaps the wild carrot nickname was coined after 17th century because till then, carrots were not orange!! Guess this was the original form of carrot; in other words, the progenitor of the cultivated carrot known to us today.
There is another species where the flower is slightly yellow & the plants as well as the leaves are slightly larger.
*it’s not clear if it is named after Princess Anne of Denmark or the Queen of Great Britain. One of them is supposed to have loved to make lace but because of her abnormally large, cumbersome hands, she often needle pierced her finer, hence the single blood-red flower at the center. However the one I remember & see in US has darkest purple center which looks black. So I guess by now the blood has dried & solidified. Another school of thought says it’s named after Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary & the patron saint of lace makers!! I like to call this lovely, out of the ordinary flower, simply as LADY LACE as it is as pretty as the entire Female species on earth.