Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)

We all recognise the bright orange carrots in our local shop but did you know that these were developed in the 17th Century and their distant relatives are growing wild on the Greenway? Wild Carrot is a dainty, frothy wildflower that has been much forgotten about since its tasty cousins arrived on the scene. Until 17th century, the only edible types of carrots had black, white, red and purple colours.

Today’s bright domestic carrots were created by selective breeding in the Netherlands as a tribute to the ruling House of Orange. Wild Carrots also have the long tap root but is tougher and more stringy than the celebrity relative. However, when you crush it they have that familiar carrot smell.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, Flora Street Walkway

The familiar lacy green wild carrot leaves form a triangular shape and are a mixture of 'bipinnate' (the feathers are feathered themselves) and tripinnate (the feathers on the feathers are feathered.) If you know of a more feathery leaf please let us know because we don’t!

The delicate white flowers form an umbrella-like head about 70cm high from June to September and sometimes have a red central flower. Once finished flowering the umbrella folds inward creating a distinctive ‘bird’s nest’ appearance which can remain for months making a meadow look like a flock of starlings have moved in!

Where to find it?

Wild carrot is in flower from June to August and can be found in wildflower meadows on the Connswater Community Greenway. It seems to particularly thrive in Marsh-wiggle Way, Dixon Playing Fields and parts of Flora Street Walkway. It is a variable biennial which means it grows only leaves in their first year then produces a flower in their second year before dying. Luckily it seeds well, meaning that we get to enjoy the floral displays of its offspring year after year.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, The Hollow

If you think you spot it, be careful as another plant - ‘poison hemlock’ looks very like the wild carrot. Poison hemlock is taller with a more open form. It has a recognisable pungent smell and flowers in spring.

Be Part of it…

Let us know if you see anything growing on the Greenway that you want included in the blog. We love to see your pictures and comments on the amazing natural landscape on our doorstep.