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How to Grow and the Benefits of Queen Anne’s Lace

Updated on August 18, 2015

Queen Anne's Lace

It's unfortunate that so many people consider Queen Anne’s Lace more of an intrusive weed than the beautiful, useful plant that it is.

That's not to say it can't spread and be a pest if it's not managed properly, but when placed in a part of the yard where it can be bunced together, it can be quite a nice, complementary addition to your landscaping strategy.

The lore of the naming of the plant Queen Anne's lace comes from the obvious look of the flower of the plant, but also from the fact that Queen Anne always wore lace collars, ending up with people of that time identifying the plant as such. There are several other legends surrounding the plant, and in general, the evidence is probably inconclusive, although it seems the collars related to Queen Anne is the most widely accepted explanation.

Quite a few people also use various parts of Queen Anne's Lace for medicinal purposes, which we'll get into later.

It is similar in look to poison hemlock, so we'll look at the distinctions between the two plants so there will be no confusion between the two.

Queen Anne’s Lace Photo


Characteristics of Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace is characterized by that beautiful lacey flower when it blooms.

It grows from 3 feet to five feet tall, and smell like a carrot, and in fact has an edible root very similar in taste, although it's lighter in color than traditional carrots.

While it can be eaten at any time, it gets tougher the longer it is in the ground, so it's best when you get them earlier in the season; although you need to wait for them to grow long enough to justify harvesting them.

The most well-known alternative name for the biennial plant is 'wild carrot.' It is a member of the parsley family (Apiaceae), as its leaves will testify to. Botanically it's called Daucus carota. Other names it is sometimes called are Fools Parsley, Bishop’s Lace, and Bird’s Nest.

There's no getting around it, Queen Anne's Lace is one of those plants you either love or hate; there's very little in-between with the plant because of its propensity to take over some areas if it isn't managed well and controlled.

That's because the seeds are easily dispersed by the wind, and they're very hardy.

While almost all varieties of the plant produce white flowers, there are some the have beautiful pink flowers.

The plant and its root will smell like a carrot.

When to Plant Queen Anne's Lace

Because the seeds of Queen Anne's Lace are so hardy, it really doesn't matter when you sow them, although to start them off seasonally, you could do it in the spring or fall. That way will enjoy the plants the first year either way.

Where to Plant Queen Anne's Lace

Probably everyone reading this article has seen Queen Anne's Lace sprinkled along the roadsides or flourishing in fields which are left alone.

This is because they can grow almost anywhere, as far as soil is concerned, and you won't need to be overly concerned in that regard.

It's more important where you want to plant them and why, rather than what the soil type will be.

Even so, most things will grow better in higher quality soil, and you could bet plants a foot or so higher if you plant them in better soil.

The only real requirement is they will do better in the full sun than a shady area.

How to Plant Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace is propagated naturally by the wind blowing the seeds around, so broadcasting them by hand is a efficient and effective way to plant them.

For best results, after sowing them on the surface of the area you're planting them in, you could add a light dusting of soil to keep them in place; although you could easily thin them out once you see how they emerge once they establish themselves.

If you're growing them in a larger area or a field, all you would have to do is broadcast them and leave them alone. They'll take care of the rest.

Queen Anne's Lace - Wild carrot - Daucus Carota

Collecting Seed of Queen Anne's Lace

Once you sow your Queen Anne's Lace you'll never have to acquire another seed, as they're easy to extract from the plant and save.

When the seeds are ready to harvest, cut the stem several inches below the head of the flower.

You will know they're getting close to harvest when you you see the umbel of the plant starting to close upward. This tells you the seeds are setting. They're ready to harvest when they turn brown.

Take a container or bag and place it below the seed head and rub the heads together softly to release the seeds.

Place the seeds in a bowl and run them under running water from your faucet. Dry them using a towel. To do that use a paper towel and lay them out in a sunny area for approximately a week or so.

When they are finished drying, put the seeds in a glass and and store it in a dark, cool location.

You can easily gather thousands of seeds in this way, more than you'll ever need to use.

Garden Benefits of Queen Anne's Lace

Other than the pretty flowers produced by the leggy plants, Queen Anne's Lace is purported to be an attractant to beneficial insects, which could be good for the rest of your garden.

If so, it would be a good strategy to plant it at the edge, or near to, the area you are growing your garden.

To add a good aesthetic effect, it would probaby be best to plant a group of the plants so the white flowers can provide a nice backdrop to the rest of the area.

Chemical Constituents of Queen Anne's Lace

According to Dr. James A. Duke, who worked for the US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service for 30 years, there are numerous chemical constituents associated with Queen Anne's Lace.

Here is a list he compiled:

Acetone, acetyl-choline, alpha-linolenic-acid, alpha-pinene, alpha-tocopherol, apigenin, arachidonic-acid, arginine, asarone, ascorbic-acid, bergapten, beta-carotene, beta-sitosterol, caffeic-acid, camphor, chlorogenic-acid, chlorophyll, chrysin, citral, citric-acid, coumarin, elemicin, esculetin, ethanol, eugenol, falcarinol, ferulic-acid, folacin, formic-acid, fructose, gamma-linolenic-acid, geraniol, glutamine, glycine, hcn, histidine, kaempferol, lecithin, limonene, linoleic-acid, lithium, lupeol, lutein, luteolin, lycopene, magnesium, manganese, methionine, mufa, myrcene, myricetin, myristicin, niacin, oleic-acid, pantothenic-acid, pectin, phenylalanine, potassium, psoralen, quercetin, scopoletin, stigmasterol, sucrose, terpinen-4-ol, thiamin, tryptophan, tyrosine, umbelliferone and xanthotoxin.

A few of the activities known to be associated with the listed constituents include these:

Analgesic, Antiarthritic, Antidepressant, Antipsychotic, Antischizophrenic, Antidote, Antiinflammatory, Antibacterial, Anticonvulsant, Antidiabetic, Antiestrogenic, Antihistaminic, Antioxidant, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Antiepileptic, Antianxiety, Antistress, AntiPMS, Antihangover, Antiviral, Cancer-Preventive, Expectorant, Fungistat, Immunostimulant, MAO-Inhibitor, Sedative, Tranquilizer, Aphrodisiac, Pituitary-Stimulant, among many others.

Queen Anne's Lace Secrets and Culinary Uses

Eating the Carrots of the Plant

Queen Anne's Lace produces an edible carrot, which is whitish or light yellow in color.

There's nothing toxic in the vegetable element of the plant, but should be harvested when it's younger, as it gets hard and fibrous as it ages.

Some people don't care about this because they cook it in ways that eliminates some of the hardness.

But if eating it like a raw carrot, it is best to harvest it earlier in the season.

The root can be prepared, other than raw, by being mashed, fried or stewed. Since it has and retains its carrot flavor, you can use it in a similar manner as you would for meals or additions made using regular carrots.

Other Uses of Queen Anne's Lace

Among a number of things the flower of Queen Anne's Lace is used for, as far as culinary uses, it is particularly used in salads. Many people also batter or fry the flower and eat it.

Under most circumstances and preparations it retains its carrot flavor.

The flower of the plant is also used to accentuate flower bouquets and floral arrangements. They are used in that manner either dried or as fresh flowers.

In some parts of the world the flowers are dyed and used as a natural dye by weavers or hand spinner for their cloth.

This is just a small sampling of the extraordinary number of benefits accompanying Queen Anne's Lace.

Herbalists use it as a remedy for numerous conditions and ailments.

Bed of Queen's Anne Lace


Is Queen Anne's Lace Safe?

There are a number of people that warn against consuming Queen Anne's Lace, but that's because of its being confused with (conium maculatum), rather than anything inherently toxic that can harm you.

One caveat would be if someone is allergic to some furocoumarins in the leaves of the plant, which could result in allergic contact dermatitis. That is more likely when the leaves of the plant are wet. Some people may also contract a mild case of photodermatitis when the sun hits the plant after the leaves are wet.

But overall it's a very safe plant other than the usual possible allergic reaction someone could get from anything they come into contact with or close to.

Queen Anne's Lace and Reproduction

Historically, Queen Anne's Lace has been used as an abortifacient by women, who make tea from the plant and drink it after they had sex.

There's a high probability this is in fact true, as far as producing the effect, so should be avoided by women who are pregnant or have religious objections to the practice.

As usual, be careful when someone identifies it as birth control. While true, it's not a preventative to becoming pregnant, but could possibly end the pregnancy after conceiving.

The tea is made from the seeds of the plant.

Difference Between Queen Anne's Lace and Poison Hemlock

Other than all the caveats already mentioned, the majority of warnings concerning Queen Anne's Lace come from it being similar enough in look to poison hemlock, that the unitiated could accidentally use the plant thinking it's Queen Anne's Lace.

For those that have a knowledge of ancient history, you'll probably recognize the name poison hemlock, as it was what was used to put Socrates to death.

With these few tips though, it won't be hard to easily identify the difference between the two.

First, poison hemlock smells horrible. You can pinch or roll the leaves of a plant and smell it. It will smell nasty if it poison hemlock, while Queen Anne's Lace will smell like carrot, no matter what part of the plant you squeeze or pinch to release the odor.

Another difference between the two is how the stems look. A stem of Queen Anne's Lace will appear to be hairy, while poison hemlock has a smooth stem. The stem of a poison hemlock will also have some purple blotches on it; Queen Anne's Lace doesn't.

Another easy tip to identify the difference is Queen Anne's Lace will bloom in the latter part of summer, while poison hemlock blooms in late spring.

Finally, poison hemlock is usually much taller than Queen Anne's Lace, growing as high as 8' tall and more. Since Queen Anne's Lace can sometimes grow as tall as 5', or possibly a little higher, you don't want to use this as a definitive identification, as poison hemlock can grow lower than 8', so could be close in height of the taller Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot plants.

But all of these combined together will easily help you make a distinction between the two. You can also view the video below to get a visual assist in identifying the two plants.

For those who know may get confused, the poison hemlock has no relationship to the native evergreen hemlock tree.

Difference Between Queen Anne's Lace and Poison Hemlock

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace is an amazing and extraordinary plant, which deserves a lot more respect than is given it.

The confusion between poison hemlock and wild carrot has given it an undeserved bad name, as well as does it's prolific ability to reproduce, which can affect farmers with fields they want to cultivate.

But for home gardeners, it's a wonderful addition to the yard, and especially works great for adding color to your garden in the latter part of summer and into the fall.

It's not hard to manage the plant because you can remove the heads before they strew seed all around, and if they do happen to enter into unwanted spots, it's not hard to control them, as normal cultivation and weeding will do most of that without any additional work.

Queen Anne's Lace is full of nutritional benefits, and can be harvested as a carrot substitute early in its growth.

That and the wonderful way it spruces up your house when using them in floral arrangements makes this an awesome plant that is far more than the weed some people think of it as.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A Johnson 

      7 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I love Queen Anne's Lace! I don't have any IN my yard but there are fields of it surrounding our property. Such a beautiful flower!

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      7 years ago

      Making ~ Totally AWESOME Hubpages on a beloved Queen Anne's Lace. Will personally Bookmark to come back and visit again. So many wonderful tips on growing and using these wildflower carrots. Hugs, Debby


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