Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fuzzy like a face, Queen Anne’s Lace; smooth with purple spots, cemetery plots!

One of my favorite wildflowers is Queen Anne’s Lace. The delicate white flowers sit atop slender long stems in downy clusters, swaying gracefully in even the softest of summer breezes. As a child, I knew Queen Anne's Lace was also called wild carrot. Its root looked and smelled a lot like a carrot, but I never wanted to eat it, thank goodness, because until a few years ago, I didn't know its near look-alike relative was Poison Hemlock, which if eaten is deadly enough to kill a person!

Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is a familiar flower in fields and along roadsides in summer.

...the distinctive flat flower-top of Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) looks beautiful in the field...or in a vase!

I think I need to back up a bit to start this story, so let's go back to June. Lots of things went on during that month...vacation, day trips, work, school, and finally our week in Shawnee, and I was hardly home, but that didn't stop all the plants and weeds in my garden from growing! Finally, July came along, and I had time to check out the yard. I always let Queen Anne’s Lace grow along the stony path and hillside that leads from our driveway to the back yard, so I’m used to seeing it there, but as I looked out the back window, I could see we had a new clump of it under the big Ash Tree beside the pool…and it was huge! The height and new location of the plant made me suspicious, so I decided to check it out. As I grew closer to the plant, I could tell the blooms were similar, but the plant was definitely not Queen Anne's Lace, so I was not surprised when I saw purple spots and blotches up and down the thick stem. I immediately went back inside and got Matty because I wanted him to see the plant. “Do you remember what was put in Socrates' drink to kill him?” I asked Matty.
“Poison Hemlock,” he said.
Pointing at the plant, I said, “That’s Poison Hemlock. The same plant that killed Socrates. So don’t eat any of it! For that matter, don’t touch it without gloves either!”

…angelic enough looking, the dainty white flowers of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) resemble the blooms of Queen Anne’s Lace...but watch out because these flowers are deadly!

...a fly clings to the beautiful Poison Hemlock blossoms. Like Queen Anne's Lace, Poison Hemlock was introduced from Europe, but unlike Queen Anne's Lace, which was brought over for medicinal uses (and later became the genetic base of our modern-day carrot), Poison Hemlock was introduced later in the 1880s as an ornamental.

Matty asked how he could tell the two plants apart. I told him the quickest way was to look at the stem. Queen Anne’s Lace has a fuzzy stem, while Poison Hemlock has a smooth stem. Poison Hemlock usually has purple spots on it too. We started talking, and I said there should be a rhyme to help tell the two plants apart like the “Leaves of three; let it be” warning for Poison Ivy, and without skipping a beat, Matty came out with, “Fuzzy like a face, Queen Ann’s Lace; smooth with purple spots, cemetery plots!!” I laughed!
“That’s good, Matty. It's going on the blog...”

Fuzzy like a face, Queen Anne's Lace!

...smooth with purple spots, cemetery plots!


The leaves of both plants look similar too, resembling carrot tops:

…leaves of Queen Anne’s Lace.

…leaves of Poison Hemlock.

…another difference...when crushed, the leaves of Poison Hemlock do not smell very good!

We also have a native hemlock plant in our area, Water Hemlock (Circuta maculata). It looks a lot like Poison Hemlock but doesn't have the fernlike leaves. I don't have a photo of Water Hemlock. I've seen it growing at Cedar Bog Nature Preserve in Urbana, Ohio, but haven't actively looked for it around here. As its name implies, Water Hemlock likes to grow around ponds and lake, streams, and wet ditches. It's also deadly...

24 comments:

texwisgirl said...

LOVE the new riddle for keeping these 2 plants separate! I THINK we have Queen Anne's here but I might have to take a look at the stems before I say for certain!

Montanagirl said...

That's a great post. I didn't know any of that! Thanks, Kelly!

Mike B. @ slugyard.com said...

Good stuff. I'll just stay away from both...

Sarah Knight said...

Ah, nature's splendor! Beautiful photos! I'm a total pushover for queen anne's lace :D

Sue said...

Well, I guess I'd better check what's out in MY yard. Good info , Kelly-Thanks!

Lois Evensen said...

Thank you for the lesson. I am very familiar with Queen Anne's Lace and we just photographed some in Tennessee. I wasn't aware of the relationship to hemlock, though.

As always, your images are fantastic.

Wanda..... said...

Matty is very clever and quick, loved the rhyme he came up with on the spot!

Roy said...

Plants like Queen Anne's Lace, Thistle, and Chicory long ago convincec me that there are no weeds, only wildflowers.

Out on the prairie said...

A lovely tale to share, Matty is good.

holdingmoments said...

Great post Kelly, and a great rhyme by Matty to tell them apart.

Jeni said...

Tell Matty great Rhyme! I didn't know about the purple spots, or smooth vs fuzzy either great to know.

KAT said...

I have been admiring the "Queen Anne's Lace" along the road sides lately. I wonder... I'll have to go on a walk and look at stems Thanks for the info! i find it very interesting to know these things. tell your Matty that the poem is wonderful!
KAT

troutbirder said...

Ouch. But great advice. I'm pretty sure I saw lots of Queen Annes yesterday hiking with my pooch but I'll have to go back and check for sure. Now that rhyme goes......

Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Great post, Kelly! I've not seen poison hemlock before, just water hemlock. As always, fantastic images :)

grammie g said...

Hi Kelley...great lesson to be learned here and Matty did a good job summing it up!!
Thanks for the info...Grace

Elaine said...

I love Matty's rhyme! Your photos are lovely, and show the difference between the two plants quite well.

Debbie said...

i still use ryhmes to remember things....

beautiful photo's today!!!

Laure Ferlita said...

I learn something every time I visit! (Thanks, Matty!)

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Matty's got a way with words! Now I know how to tell the two apart, and I don't think I'll forget it!

Janice K said...

I've always enjoyed Queen Anne's Lace but never know about her deadly look alike. I guess I need to start checkin stems. Thanks for sharing that...plus, that up-close look in your first picture was beautiful.

Banjo52 said...

I was gonna jot some of this down to avoid poison, then it occurred to me, "When was the last time you stopped by the side of the road to eat some Queen Anne's Lace?"

I can't believe I'm saying this, but that fly adds a lot to the photo.

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! I saw a great deal of Poison Hemlock while walking through the weeds along the Great Miami. The purple-spotted stalk really jumps out at me now! :-)

Kathiesbirds said...

Wow, that's a bit scary. I knew poison hemlock was poisonous but had no idea it resembles Queen Anne's lace! I love that summer wildflower also. Your son is a genius! Love that rhyme! I will never forget it now! Tell him, "Well done!" Perhaps he is a poet at heart?

Kelly said...

...Kathie...he is a poet! He tries to inspire me to write poems, and I do now and then, but his are so free and beautiful. My dad is poet, so maybe he gets it from him! thank you!