(Daucus Carota) Carrot family

Flowers - Small, of unequal sizes (polygamous), white, rarely

pinkish gray, 5-parted, in a compound, flat, circular umbel, the

central floret often dark crimson; the umbels very concave in

fruit. An involucre of narrow, pinnately cut bracts. Stem: 1 to 3

ft. high, with stiff hairs; from a deep, fleshy, conic root.

Leaves: Cut into fine, fringy divisions; upper ones smaller and

less dissected.

Preferred Habitat - Wastelands, fields, roadsides. Flowering

Season - June-September.

Distribution - Eastern half of United States and Canada. Europe

and Asia.

A pest to farmers, a joy to the flower lover, and a welcome

signal for refreshment to hosts of flies, beetles, bees, and

wasps, especially to the paper-nest builders, the sprangly wild

carrot lifts its fringy foliage and exquisite lacy, blossoms

above the dry soil of three continents. From Europe it has come

to spread its delicate wheels over our summer landscape, until

whole fields are whitened by them east of the Mississippi. Having

proved fittest in the struggle for survival in the fiercer

competition of plants in the over-cultivated Old World, it takes

its course of empire westward year by year, Finding most

favorable conditions for colonizing in our vast, uncultivated

area; and the less aggressive, native occupants of our soil are

only too readily crowded out. Would that the advocates of

unrestricted immigration of foreign peasants studied the parallel

examples among floral invaders!

What is the secret of the wild carrots' triumphal march? As

usual, it is to be sought chiefly in the flower's scheme to

attract and utilize visitors. Nectar being secreted in open disks

near to one another, the shortest-tongued insects can lick it up

from the Umbelliferae with even less loss of time than from the

tubular florets of the Cornpositae. Over sixty distinct species

of insects may be taken on the wild carrot by any amateur, since

it blooms while insect life is at its height but, as might be

expected, the long-tongued and color-loving, specialized bees and

butterflies do not often waste time on florets so easily drained

by the mob. Ants find the stiff hairs on the stem disagreeable

obstacles to pilfering; but no visitors seem to object to the

flowers' suffocating odor.

One of these lacy, white umbels must be examined under a lens

before its delicate structure and perfection of detail can be

appreciated. Naturally a visitor is attracted first by the

largest, most showy florets situated around the outer edge of the

wheel, on which he leaves pollen, brought from another umbel; and

any vitalizing dust remaining on his under side may be left on

the less conspicuous hermaphrodite blossoms as he makes his way

toward the center, where the tiny, pollen-bearing florets are

grouped. From the latter, as he flies away, he will carry fresh

pollen to the outer row of florets on another umbel, and so on -

at least this is the usual and highly advantageous method. After

general fertilization, the slender flower-stalks curl inward, and

the umbel forms a hollow nest that gradually contracts as it

dries, almost, if not quite, closing at the top, albeit the

fiction that bees and spiders make their home in the seeding

umbels circulates freely.

Still another fiction is that the cultivated carrot, introduced

to England by the Dutch in Queen Elizabeth's reign, was derived

from this wild species. Miller, the celebrated English botanist

and gardener, among many others, has disproved this statement by

utterly failing again and again to produce an edible vegetable

from this wild root. When cultivation of the garden carrot lapses

for a few generations, it reverts to the ancestral type -a

species quite distinct from Daucus Carota.

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