It is the middle of July, and here at the house, Queen Anne’s Lace is beginning to blossom and will continue to bloom well into September. I have loved these wildflowers since I was a child, and even now I will open a book and an exquisitely pressed bloom will drift to the floor. I wonder how many homemade cards I have made out of these lacy flowers over the course of my life.

On my walks I still gather the ripened seed to scatter around my property to insure that this beautiful annual or bi -annual wildflower will be around for years to come. The pure white flower clusters are made up of numerous delicate white blossoms and some have a solitary deep purple flower in the center. The blooms stand on a single stem feathered with narrow leaves and can grow quite tall. The flowers start out curled up like a birds nest, open flat to allow for pollination, and finally curl themselves inward to protect next year’s seeds. In addition butterflies flock to these wildflowers.

Queen Anne’s Lace can be found along roadsides, in fields, meadows, waste areas, and disturbed habitats. The plants are very hardy and will thrive in a dry environment and poor soil. Midsummer is also the time this plant is in full bloom across much of North America, Europe and Asia.

Queen Anne’s Lace belongs to the carrot family and is the ancestor of all cultivated carrots. The white flower heads are quite tasty raw or lightly battered and fried. The seeds work well in soups and stews and can flavor tea, too.

If dug early in the season the leaves and roots can be eaten. The roots smell, not surprisingly, like carrots. By the time the flower appears the roots are too woody to eat.

Some sources caution that Queen Anne’s Lace leaves closely resemble the leaves of hemlock, fool’s parsley and water hemlock, all poisonous cousins of Queen Anne’s Lace. When in doubt dig a root – if it smells like a carrot it is.

If you are going to harvest this plant it is recommended that you use first year plants. Roots are long, pale, woody, and are finger-thin and are used in soups, stews and in making tea as previously mentioned. First year leaves can be chopped and tossed into a salad. Flower clusters can be ‘french-fried’ or fresh flowers can be tossed into a salad. The aromatic seed is used as a flavoring in stews and soups.

This beneficial plant can be also be used as a ‘companion plant’. Like most members of the umbellifer family, it attracts bees and wasps to its small flowers. In northeast Wisconsin, it attracted pollinators when introduced with blueberries. This species is also documented to assist tomato plant production when planted nearby. Queen Anne’s Lace can also provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for extending the lettuce season. In addition it helps control soil erosion, the reason it is often planted by highways.

For me Queen Anne’s Lace is the beloved center of attention in wildflower bouquets. This flower is especially beautiful when clustered with white phlox and rounded bright green Oriental poppy heads. Each year I make certain that at least one spray graces my table.

Even with its extraordinary beauty and varied uses this lovely wild plant is considered to be “invasive” – a noxious weed – in many states. I’m convinced that the word invasive is used incorrectly. These plants are survivors that may continue to thrive during Climate Change.

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