Daucus carota (wild carrot, bird’s nest)

description: herbaceous biennial

place of origin: Afghanistan, Eurasia and North Africa

urban habitat: commonly found in urban meadows, vacant lots, rubble dumps, along roadsides and railroad tracks; thrives in dry conditions in full sun as well as in shaded areas.

ecological function: disturbance adapted colonizer of bare ground; food and habitat for wildlife; tolerant of roadway salt and compacted soil.

history: Daucus carota was probably introduced into North America with European colonization and is now found throughout the continental US and in all southern Canadian provinces. Its seeds have long been used in European medicine as a “morning-after” contraception and in India to inhibit female fertility. It is documented to have been used for this purpose in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Many Native American tribes used the plant medicinally, as treatment for diabetes, acne, swelling, blood disorders, gynecological issues, and as an appetite stimulant. Its roots were also consumed as a vegetable by several tribes. The plant has also been used in various parts of the world as treatment for kidney and bladder stones. Approximately one in four flowers has a single dark purple flower in the center of its cluster of tiny white flowers whose purpose is to attract pollinating insects. This dark center is sometimes called the “fairy seat” or, in another story, represents a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle while making lace.