Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wild Carrot - Daucus carota - another Umbel study

This is a post about the true "Wild Carrot" (Daucus carota). It is a weed in Australia, because of its propensity to bear vast numbers of seeds, with high fertility. It tends to grow along roadsides in Australia.

I must stress that I have corrected the references in my previous posting on the plant known (in Australia) as Queen Anne's Lace (Ammi majus). The leaves of the two plants are very different (as I now know), and the flowers of this plant are pinkish in bud stage (greenish white in the Ammi majus). The flowers and stems of this plant are smaller and finer in size and narrowness of the stems, from the Ammi majus. This plant grows to about 1 metre tall.

Here is a link to an American horticultural site which confirms this identification as valid.

Firstly, the full head of mature flowers. Once again this plant has an inflorescence structure known as a "compound umbel" (an umbel structure, with smaller umbellules within it).
Here you can see the full umbel, from the side and below. The narrow bracts underneath the flowers are very similar to those of Ammi majus. The bracts beneath the full umbel are very different from the first Umbel studied in this series - the Coriander - which has no bracts at that point. You can clearly see the pedicels (flower stems) radiating out to support the secondary umbels ("umbellules").
If you click to enlarge the photo (above), you will see the distinctive hairs on hte stem which are absent in Ammi majus. These hairs are quite bristly, and are noticeable to the touch.

This next image is of a young flower head, which is pinkish. This feature is often commented upon in botanical texts.This is an image of a single secondary umbel (or umbellule). The structure is subtended by narrow bracts very similar to the major bracts underneath the full umbel. Each pedicel supports a single flower in the overall "head" of flowers.Here is a single leaf of Daucus carota. Note how soft and downy it is, and also note the reddish tinges on the leaf edges. This image of the leaf reveals the link to the domesticated carrot (which is derived from this original wild plant). Here is the leaf closer-up. The hairyness of the leaf is visible, especially at all nodes on the leaf, and at the junction with the main stem. (Click to enlarge to see these details).Even near the tips of the leaf, the hairs are visible on the leaf-stems. The best description of the texture of these leaf segments is "downy". Contrast this with the close-up of the leaf of Ammi majus.This is the base of the main stem, just above ground level. It is distinctly hairy, and quite strongly ribbed. The photos which I have now published of the stem of Ammi majus, clearly show it as not hairy - indeed it is very smooth - in contrast to this plant.The root of the Wild Carrot shows its shape, as passed on to the derived "domesticated" forms of the carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus). This root of the wild plant is white. Carrots were introduced from Afghanistan, apparently for their aromatic leaves and seeds (just as we still use their modern relatives, Parsley, and Fennel and Cumin). The coloured forms of the carrot root with which we are familiar today were selected over centuries of cultivation, (as early as the 1st century AD). Red and yellow carrots were reported in the 8th century, and the modern orange carrot is first recorded in the Netherlands in the 17th century.Modern carrots have been developed in a range of colours, from white, orange, red, maroon and black. The colour variation is a factor of the concentration of the chemical "carotene", which is a source of Vitamin A (once digested).


Duncan said...

Interesting post Denis, I'll look at carrots with renewed interest now!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Duncan
It is intriguing, isn't it. But then again our Hybrid Tea Roses started out as briars, and dogs as wolves.
I could not find myself attracted to a black carrot, though.

Do you guys get these tall weedy plants beside your roads in Gippsland?
I am sure Fennel is widespread in Victoria - but it is not in flower here, yet. I shall post about it in the fullness of time. Also I shall do the Poison Hemlock next week. It is in flower here, now.


John said...

Great piece about the much under rated vegetable. Carrots first came to Australia in 1788 with the First Fleet and convicts planted ‘Long Orange’ carrots on Norfolk Island Lots more in the World Carrot Museum.

Denis Wilson said...

Goodness me. A "World Carrot Museum" - who would have thought?

Its full of amazing information on the history of cultivated carrots, medicinal uses of carrots (including the "Wild Carrot").
Check it out.

Thanks to John for that information.