Wild Carrot Flower Wild Carrot Seed Head
Origin and Distribution: Wild carrot is native to Europe. It entered the United States about 250 years ago, probably as a contaminant of cultivated carrot seeds, and was reported in Canada about 150 years later. It has since spread throughout most of North America. It occurs in areas that are occasionally disturbed. Wild carrot grows in roadsides, waste places, meadows, pastures, and no-tillage fields. It prefers well-drained or dry soils and grows best in full sun. The plant is often associated with lime-rich soils.
Plant Description: Wild carrot is a biennial that looks and smells similar to cultivated carrot. Its distinctive fern-like foliage forms a rosette during the first year. During the second year of growth, it produces a succession of hairy flower stalks that terminate in umbrella-shaped clusters of small white flowers. A distinctive feature of wild carrot is the appearance of a dark purple flower (rarely several flowers) in the center of most flower clusters. Once flowers mature and seeds begin to develop, the flower cluster closes forming a cuplike bird's nest. Wild carrot reproduces by seeds.
Root system - Wild carrot forms a long, slender, white taproot with fibrous secondary roots that become woody with age. The outer layer of root tissue often splits due to continued growth.
Seedlings & Shoots - Emerging first are 2 seed leaves (cotyledons) that are less than an inch long and linear. The first true leaf that appears is compound with 3 main divisions. Then, highly dissected leaves are formed that grow as a basal rosette during the first year.
Stems - The stem is compressed during the rosette stage and elongates during the second year of growth to form an upright flower stalk that is 1 to 3 feet tall, branched, hollow, grooved, and hairy. The base of the stalk may appear reddish. Usually, there are few leaves on the stem.
Leaves - Leaves are alternate (1 leaf per node), compound with many divisions, and have a carrot-like taste and smell. Divisions are further dissected giving leaves a feathery appearance. Leaves attach to stems by way of long leaf stalks (petioles) with broad bases that encircle the stem at each node.
Flowers - Flowers are small and have 5 white petals. They form in terminal, umbrella-shaped clusters that are between 2 to 5 inches in diameter. Often, one to several dark purple flowers appear in the center of each cluster. As flowers mature, the cluster curls inward forming a cuplike bird's nest.
Fruits & Seeds - The brownish seeds are less than 1/8 inch long, ribbed, and have bristly hairs. They usually have one flattened side and the other side is noticeably rounded.