Wild Carrot (Daucus carota)
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Wild carrot is an annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial broadleaf that closely resembles a cultivated carrot through the immature, rosette stage. It easily crosses with cultivated carrot and is vulnerable to the same pests and diseases. Except for the Great Basin and deserts, it is found throughout the state, especially in Northern California and coastal regions to about 5000 feet (1500 m). Nutritive value of its foliage is similar to that found in legumes and thus can benefit foraging livestock.
Wild carrot is found in fields, pastures, vegetable crops, orchards, roadsides and other disturbed places. It is typically found in sandy or gravelly soils.
Cotyledons (seed leaves) are linear, hairless, and roughly 4/5 inch (20 mm) long and 1/25 inch (1 mm) wide. The first leaf is divided into 3 lobes. True leaves alternate along the stem and have a lower surface with hairless to sparsely hairy veins and edges. Leaf stalks are long and generally have rows of short bristly hairs. Wild carrot seedlings look like those of common yarrow, Achillea millefolium. At the young plant stage when they form into rosettes, differences in leaf hairs can be used to easily distinguish the two plants (see “Young plant”).
The young plants exist as a rosette of basal, fernlike leaves with long stalks during the first year or until the flowering stem develops at maturity. Although similar as seedlings, wild carrot rosette leaves are almost hairless or have short, bristly hairs, whereas leaf hairs of the common yarrow rosette lay mostly flat against the leaf surface. Leaves range from approximately 2 to 6 inches (5–15 cm) in length and are finely divided 3 to 4 times into segments that are roughly linear to lance-shaped in outline.
At maturity the flowering stalks bolt upward. They are erect, round, longitudinally ridged, bristly-haired, hollow, sparingly branched, and reach up to 4 feet (1.2 m). Both basal and stem leaves are subdivided into “lacy” or “feathery” leaflets giving them an overall fernlike appearance. The basal rosette leaves have long stalks whereas the stem leaves have short to no stalks. Leaves range from approximately 2 to 6 inches (5–15 cm) in length and are nearly hairless to bristly-haired. Crushed leaves and broken roots have a carrot scent.
Flowers bloom from May through September. Many tiny white flowers bundle to form an inflorescence about 2 to 4 inches (5–10 cm) in diameter. Numerous flower-cluster stalks radiate from a common point forming an umbrella “shape” and are called compound umbels. The individual flowers have 5 white petals with lobed tips unequal in size. The central-most flower is sometimes dark red to purplish. Under each umbel are feathery looking leaflike bracts that are finely dissected into liner or threadlike segments.
As the fruit matures, the clusters curve inward and the umbels become concave, then flat. The tiny fruit are somewhat egg shaped, slightly flattened, and mostly 1/8 to 1/6 inch (3–4 mm) long. They are widest at the middle with 5 narrow bristly, longitudinal ribs. Eventually fruit separate into 2 parts each containing one seed.
Seeds are tiny with one flat side and a rounded side that is ridged and bristled.
Wild carrot reproduces by seed, which fall near the parent plant, but disperse with water, mud, as feed and seed contaminants, and clinging to humans and animals.
Related or similar plants
- Greater ammi, Ammi majus
- Poison hemlock, Conium maculatum
- Southwestern carrot, Daucus pusillus
- Wild celery, Cyclospermum leptophyllum