This roadside weed is so common that many people actually think it is a native. It is not; it was brought here by our European forebears. In fact, Queen Anne’s Lace (daucus carotus) is a European native from which our modern carrots are derived.
While the USDA classifies it as a “noxious weed,” it is actually used and preferred by many species of wildlife. Its seeds do persist in the soil for quite some time, however, and of course because it is basically a wild carrot it has a long tap root and is difficult to remove.
Like common mullein, it too is a bienniel, growing just a basal rosette the first year and flowering the second. It is these seed heads, however, that produce so many seeds that are problematic.
The leaves on the plant are poisonous and may produce a contact dermatitis-like rash if touched. The first year root is edible but by the time the plant is flowering the root is generally too woody to be eaten. Because the plant so closely resembles poison hemlock, however, correct identification is a must!
Just a few of the the species that use this plant in some ways are the eastern black swallowtail butterfly, the green lacewing (a beneficial insect), beneficial bees, and goldfinch, bluebirds and mockingbirds, which all shelter in the plant’s dense growth.
So the next time you see this common roadside weed, try to appreciate it for its value to wildlife!