It makes a great cut flower, and is much loved by Floral Artists. It was another of my Mother's favourite plants. Photographers such as myself, find the architectural structure of these flowers fascinating too.
This report is the third in a series of flowers which have an "umbel" structure, which I have shown- Elderberry (not a true Umbel shape, but similar); and Coriander (which has a classic Compound Umbel). This plant is related to the Coriander, but there are many, many related plants. That is one of the reasons I have started this series - to help people distinguish between similar-looking plants (some of which are poisonous). The name "Apiaceae" means it is in the same family as Parsley (and numerous other herbs and vegetables). We have many Australian Native plants in this same grouping, but they are not used commercially for food or medicine.
DJW EDIT: 25 November 2008 8:00pm
The following information is close, but not properly accurate, it seems.
Believe it or not, Australia has a different use of the name "Queen Anne's Lace" from England and the USA, apparently. This makes sense to me, as I knew (but had not photographed until today) that the leaves of Dorothy's plant were tripartite, but flat, and broad, not "fern-like". So, it seems the plant we know here (and the photos below) are of Ammi majus, (known as Bishop's Weed or "Bullwort"). I have taken photos of both the flowers and leaves of the true Wild Carrot, and the leaves of Ammi majus (the plant known in Australia as "Queen Anne's Lace"). I will publish both together soon, to set the record right. The clue which was worrying me all day was that the reference texts refer to Wild Carrots as hairy, and the Queen Anne's Lace plant I photographed yesterday was not hairy. Also the Wild Carrot flowers are pink or reddish when immature. That also did not fit.
If you are in Australia, the photos are of the plant you will know as Queen Anne's Lace, but the botanical notes refer to Wild Carrot - a similar, related plant, but it is a different species.
It just shows the need to persevere with one's research, I guess, and to trust one's eyes, not just what one reads. I apologise for the partially incorrect info.
Wikipedia has the following notes on this plant: "Wild carrot, bishop's lace, or Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia and northeast North America; domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies, Daucus carota subsp. sativus.
"Daucus carota is a variable biennial plant, usually growing up to 1 m tall and flowering from June to August. The umbels are claret-coloured or pale pink before they open, then bright white and rounded when in full flower, measuring 3–7 cm wide with a festoon of bracts beneath; finally, as they turn to seed, they contract and become concave like a bird's nest. This has given the plant its British common or vernacular name, Bird's Nest.
"It is very similar in appearance to the deadly Water Hemlock, it is distinguished by a mix of bi-pinnate and tri-pinnate leaves, fine hairs on its stems and leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in its centre."
PlantNET - the Flora Online Website of Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, has this more technical description of this plant: "Erect biennial herb 30–150 cm high, hispid (roughly hairy) especially on the primary stems, stems striate.
"Leaves 2–3-pinnate, to 15 cm long; segments ovate to lanceolate or linear; petiole of basal leaves shorter than lamina and with a long striate sheathing base.
"Umbels flat-topped or slightly convex in flower, 4–8 cm diam., with 30–60 rays; rays becoming rigid and incurved to form a concave infructescence; umbellules to 20-flowered, outer flowers white or pinkish, c. 2.5 mm diam., inner sterile; involucral bracts 7–13, pinnatifid, often shorter than rays; involucral bracteoles linear and entire or trifid."(Source PlantNET)
Full head (Compound Umbel) of flowers.
(In light of the edited notes above - I stress that these photos and my comments relate to the plant known as "Queen Anne's Lace" in Australia.
This plant is Ammi majus, not Daucus carota.)
You can see the structure of ribs, or "rays" which hold the groups of flowers.
The Coriander flower had only 5 or 6 secondary umbels. This one has in excess of 40.
The Coriander flowerhead had no bracts at this junction point.
Here is an immature Umbel, just forming the flowers.
Note the bracts, looking almost spiky.
This is how they fulfill their true role of protecting the flowers during their formation.
This is a "secondary umbel" or "Umbellule" as PlantNET refers to it.
Unlike the Coriander plant, this plant has fully-shaped flowers (Coriander had asymmetrical flowers, on the outer edge of the secondary umbels).
It also has many more flowers per umbellule.
From underneath, you can see the large number of "rays".
These are pedicels supporting the numerous flowers.
There are flattened bracts which subtend the pedicels.
Finally, you can see that this secondary umbel (umbellule) also has numerous bracts.
Further to my editorial note above, I can now publish a photograph of the mature leaf of Queen Anne's Lace (as it is known in Australia) (Ammi majus).
If only I had been able to do this before, I might have avoided the embarrassment of having to make this correction. By the way, the problem was that I took the photos of cut flowers (away from the plant), not of flowers on the plant, where I would, naturally, have photographed the leaves as well as the flowers.
If only I had taken this photograph first.
"Basal leaves 3–15 cm long with segments elliptic or obovate, 1–6 cm long, 2–20 mm wide, obtuse; upper stem leaves with segments linear-lanceolate or linear, all except uppermost with toothed margins."