Home ImprovementRemodelingCleaningGardeningLandscapingInterior DesignHome AppliancesPest ControlDecks & PatiosSwimming Pools & Hot TubsGaragesBasements

How to Identify Queen Anne's Lace (Wild Carrot)

Updated on June 18, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace: Check for the Purple Heart

Queen Anne's Lace has a dark purple flower in the center (click to enlarge).
Queen Anne's Lace has a dark purple flower in the center (click to enlarge). | Source

Queen Anne's Lace: The Importance of Identification


Queen Anne’s Lace is a wildflower with lacy, white flowers. It grows in meadows and along roadsides in most of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. The plant is a member of the carrot family, and the roots of Queen Anne’s Lace can actually be eaten when the plant is still immature (the roots become too woody to consume once the plant matures).

It is highly important to identify Queen Anne’s Lace correctly, because the plant closely resembles the highly poisonous Hemlock plant. Hemlock contains a poison called Coniine, which acts blocks the ability of the nervous system to transmit information to the muscles. Like curare, Hemlock will cause a progressive paralysis, which affects the diaphragm and results in an inability to breathe (causing death). Socrates was poisoned by Hemlock.

As Queen Anne’s Lace is often used in classroom experiments (the flower heads will change color when the fresh cut stems are exposed to dyed water), it is vital to correctly identify this plant prior to harvesting. In addition, some people do harvest and eat the roots of wild carrot, or make a jelly from Queen Anne’s Lace.

Confusing wild carrot with Hemlock would be devastating, and could result in a fatality.

Know the difference between Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace - don't pick the flowers until you know the plant is safe! All the flowers in these pictures are wild carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace.
Know the difference between Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace - don't pick the flowers until you know the plant is safe! All the flowers in these pictures are wild carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace. | Source
We have taught our children to identify the smell of wild carrot, as they often like to gather wild flowers from our back yard. Safety is paramount!
We have taught our children to identify the smell of wild carrot, as they often like to gather wild flowers from our back yard. Safety is paramount! | Source

Queen Anne's Lace Smells Like Carrots


One important identifier of wild carrot is the smell. Queen Anne’s Lace gives off a carrot-like smell when the leaves of the plant are crushed.

Hemlock, on the other hand, has a rank, musty smell similar to parsnips. When picking wild carrot, it is important to smell each plant before harvesting its flowers.

Queen Anne's Lace Has a Green Stem


Wild carrot has green stems with little green hairs. The stems are entirely green, with no other discoloration.

Hemlock has smooth stems, and the lower portion of the stem will be streaked with red or purple spots and lines.

Queen Anne's Lace Has a Purple Heart


Queen Anne’s Lace earned its name from the appearance of the flower: it appears like a fine lace. In the middle of the flower, there is a purple “heart” (a small, dark red or purple flower in the center). This small, red flower is said to be the blood from Queen Anne, when she pricked her finger on a needle while making the lace. The actual purpose of the tiny, dark flower is to attract pollinating insects. When Queen Anne’s Lace goes to seed, the umbrels fold up into a concave form (resembling a bird’s nest) and eventually fall off the stem to form a small tumbleweed.

Hemlock does not have a small, dark flower in the center. The flowers appear remarkably similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. When Hemlock goes to seed, it produces small brown seeds on its umbrels.

A Video Identification Guide for Queen Anne's Lace

Stay Safe: Do Not Accidentally Harvest Hemlock


Unless you are experienced in identifying the differences between wild carrot and Hemlock, it is best to avoid picking the plants for consumption. Many people have accidentally consumed Hemlock because they confuse the leaves for parsley (the alternate name for Hemlock is Poison Parsley), or the seeds for anise.

Learn the identifying signs for wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace) and remember them well. Hemlock is considered an invasive species in 12 states of the United States of America, and grows wildly in several other countries. Always verify the pretty white flowers in your vase belong to Queen Anne’s Lace and not its deadly mimic!

Plants that Look Like Hemlock

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Cow parsley resembles poison hemlock.Angelica is another flower that resembles poison hemlock.Heracleum maximum (cow parsnip) looks like poison hemlock.
Cow parsley resembles poison hemlock.
Cow parsley resembles poison hemlock. | Source
Angelica is another flower that resembles poison hemlock.
Angelica is another flower that resembles poison hemlock. | Source
Heracleum maximum (cow parsnip) looks like poison hemlock.
Heracleum maximum (cow parsnip) looks like poison hemlock. | Source

Plants that Look Like Hemlock

Several other plants look like Poison Hemlock. The following plants may be confused with the deadly plant:

  • Cow Parsley, also known as wild chervil, closely resembles hemlock. Its scientific name is Anthriscus sylvestris, and it blooms at the same time as Queen Anne's Lace and poison hemlock. Cow parsley is not poisonous, but care must be taken to properly identify the plant.
  • Angelica, also known as wild celery, also resembles hemlock. It's official name is Angelica archengelica. While this plant is not poisonous, it closely resembles several toxic plants (including hemlock and hogweed).
  • Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum) is also known as hogweed. This plant should also be avoided, as it contains a chemical that causes a severe rash upon exposure to sunlight.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 5 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      What excellent info. I had no idea there was another plant so similar to Queen Anne's Lace. We have it all around our yard. Now I am going to go to check to see which plants we have. Thanks for this informative hub. Voted up and useful.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Hemlock looks very similar on a casual glance, but it is actually quite different! The flowers of hemlock are slightly separated on the umbrels, and don't curl up like the "bird's nests" of Queen Anne's Lace. We live in an area that has the potential for both plants, so we constantly teach our boys about the difference. Fortunately, I have checked our yard and we have wild carrot and not hemlock throughout the yard.

    • Dawn Conklin profile image

      Dawn Conklin 5 years ago from New Jersey, USA

      Great hub, thank you for the info! I had no idea there was a poisonous version. We do not pick it for consumption, I actually didn't know Queen Anne's Lace was edible and I didn't know it was a form of a wild carrot. I learn something new everyday! We just use the flowers to change their colors. My kids know not to consume any plant unless I give it to them. I will have to look for the heart in the center next time!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Sometimes the heart isn't visible (the purple heart fades after the flower is fertilized), but if you crush the leaves it will have a distinct carrot-like smell. Hemlock smells terrible, and that is the easiest way to distinguish the two. I've made jelly out of the flowers of Queen Anne's Lace, which is delicious (tastes a bit like honey). You definitely wouldn't want to confuse the flowers with Hemlock, though!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      This is a very interesting Hub and I also learned a lot. Queen Anne's lace is beautiful. When I was a kid, we got lots of chiggers from it. I am going to look for some and check the roots. Thanks so much. I love to learn.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I've never tried to eat the roots of Queen Anne's Lace (apparently they have to be VERY juvenile to eat the roots, otherwise they're woody). The roots should smell like carrots, too. The roots will also be thin, not thick like real carrots (but they are edible if the plant is very young). Fortunately, we don't have chiggers this far north!

    • ThePelton profile image

      ThePelton 5 years ago from Martinsburg, WV USA

      Let me recommend a book. "Edible Wild Plants of the Rocky Mountains" by Seebeck.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I'll have to check it out. There are so many edible plants, but people need to know how to identify the safe, edible versions from plants which might be highly toxic! We live in an area with lots of nightshade and other toxic plants (including hemlock), so we are very keen on teaching our boys to recognize the native plants!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a very interesting hub. I had no idea of the similarities between Queen Anne's Lace and Hemlock. We used to pick (not sure which one) bouquets of wildflowers when we were kids and had one of these in the mixture. Thanks for this informative hub!

    • profile image

      Fred 4 years ago

      Hemlock looks slightly like wild carrot, but bares a far closer resemblance to cow parsley, which is edible.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Fred, I had read about cow parsley before - I think there are a few Hemlock deaths attributed to a confusion between the two plants. It is so very scary to think of anyone making that mistake! There are definite distinctions between Queen Anne's Lace and Hemlock, but some people still get confused. I have a recipe for making jelly out of Queen Anne's Lace, so I REALLY wanted to make sure people knew the difference!

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Euell Gibbons has some great books on edible plants. I have one of his books but haven't eaten many wild plants. Dandelion is one I know I can identify and feel safe eating.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I really want to get that book, Pamela. I just realized we have an Elderberry bush growing in our woods - I had no idea it was there until recently! I don't know if I'll get enough berries to make jam this year, but I'll try!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      I've never noticed the purple at the center of Queen Anne's Lace as there's always an insect there. Now I know why! Interesting hub.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Our Queen Anne's Lace usually has insects in the center, too! Dirt Farmer, I think I had to brush a few off to get the picture of the one above! The purple heart may not be visible on very young flowers.

    • Karine Gordineer profile image

      Karine Gordineer 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Hi Leah - Very interesting and important hub especially since most often children are the unfortunate victims of mis-identification. I might disagree with the video, however. He indicates that you might read about "many poisonings" - there really aren't many about 100 a year worldwide and then especially when compared with the approximate 850,000 a year deaths related to pharmaceuticals - it's really not many although I absolutely agree that it's important to know exactly which plant we're looking at. One another point to note is most of the wild growing Angelica is (Angelica atropurpurea). The garden variety and transplant from Europe is A.archangelica but both names are often used interchangeably so more of a point of interest than anything but once again another fabulously interesting, well written and thorough hub!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Karine Gordineer! It is important to know the difference. It would be interesting to know the percentage of deaths vs. users, since the use of pharmaceuticals is nearly universal and fewer people use Queen Anne's Lace as a food or medication source (and therefore fewer would be available to misidentify Hemlock for it). Still, deaths due to pharmaceuticals is a significant problem due to pharmacy errors, overdosages, and side effects. I know there was recently a black box warning placed on Tylenol with Codeine for children who have tonsillectomies, as some children have died as a consequence of breathing difficulties (a side effect of the narcotic).

      The differences are fairly obvious if you know what to look for. Children may not immediately recognize the difference, or unsuspecting, novice wild herb seekers.

    Click to Rate This Article