Wild Carrot

The umbels of Wild Carrot flower on the clifftops between June and August.
Photo: Amanda Scott

Scientific name: Daucus carota ssp carota

Other names: Bird’s Nest, Bishop’s Lace, Queen Anne’s Lace

Cornish name: No specific name found, but Gwyls (=wild), Karetysen (=carrot)

Wild Carrot has a preference for basic soils, which is why it is found in some abundance on The Lizard with its serpentine rocks. A member of the Apiaceae family of plants, or umbellifers, Wild Carrot is very closely related to the cultivated variety (ssp sativus) and to Sea Carrot (ssp gummifer). Flowering mainly between June and August, it is a biennial, and can be found not only on the clifftops, where it is particularly prevalent, but in a variety of other habitats, including roadsides and grassland.

One of its most characteristic features is the large ‘ruff’ (Rose and O’Reilly, 2006) of leafy, three-times divided bracts. This is particularly obvious once the plant has gone to seed as the bracts fold back and the umbel takes a concave shape: this is presumably the reason for the alternative common names of Bird’s Nest and Bishop’s Lace. The flowers often look pink or reddish as they first open, but are white once matured, except that a single or small central group of flowers in the umbel is generally a dark red in colour.

Did you know…?

…The roots of Wild Carrot are edible when young, but care needs to be taken to distinguish the plant from poisonous members of the Apiaceae family, in particular Hemlock (which has a smooth stem, in contrast to the hairy stem of the Wild Carrot)

…The Sea Carrot (ssp gummifer) is very similar: one distinguishing feature is that in flower it has a more domed umbel, compared to the flat umbel of Wild Carrot: the latter also has a more concave shape when in fruit. See the link to the BSBI’s Plant Crib below for more information on identifying the two subspecies. The photograph on this page shows Wild Carrot (left) and Sea Carrot (right).

More information and references:

Rose, F. and O’Reilly, C., 2006. The Wild Flower Key, 2nd edition. Frederick Warne, London.

Published: July 2013
Author: Amanda Scott
Photos: Amanda Scott