Wild carrot (Daucus carota) seed head

Going to Seed: Wild Carrot

One of the plants I’ve grown specifically so that I can photograph it is the wild carrot (Daucus carota). This variety is ‘Dara’. It starts off white when the flowers first open, gradually becoming pink, before finally turning a lovely deep burgundy red as they mature.

Daucus carota is the wild form of the carrot we eat and gives an eye-catching display of delicate lacy flowers on the end of long stems. It creates a stunningly pretty effect in a border. The plant is a biennial and seeds itself around easily – so it will probably get everywhere here eventually. (It has stayed in the same area so far, so I may just give it a little help to spread.)

Wild carrot (Daucus carota)
Right back at the start: wild carrot (Daucus carota) flower buds about to open.

I love the flowers and seed heads but I find they can be tricky to photograph. As quite large flowers or heavy seed heads on the ends of long, delicate stems they move easily in the slightest breath of air. I should have taken some indoors to photograph them, but my little studio space is in a state of upheaval at the moment. (Very inconvenient!)

This year, I have at least managed to take photographs of the flowers at different stages. Next year I’ll try to catch the early stages of the flowers when they’re white or pink. (Somehow this year I got distracted by doing other things.)

My favourite time to photograph this flower is when it turns to seed. The seed heads are an extraordinary shape, with the individual stems of seeds curving inwards to make a little ‘nest’. And the seeds themselves look interesting – covered in tiny white spikes and either ridged with, or entirely red.

Wild carrot (Daucus carota) flower head.
First seeds forming in the centre of the flower head.

I haven’t finished photographing the wild carrot seed heads yet. They are one of the best plants to leave standing in the garden for winter. (I don’t tidy very much away anyway, because it’s useful to wildlife.) Having the seed heads there through winter means that there is the possibility of something exciting to photograph when they get frosted. (Especially if the breeze drops and they sit still for a little while!)

This winter I’ll be checking to see if there’s any frost in the mornings and rushing out with my camera if there is. These are shaded by a fence in the early morning, so any frost is protected from the rising sun. Wish me luck and a little frost!

Daucus carota (wild carrot) seed head
Tiny spiky seeds on the maturing seed head

25 thoughts on “Going to Seed: Wild Carrot

    1. Thanks Stephanie! I fell in love with them when I saw them in a garden I visited a few years ago, so I’m happy to have them spreading around mine.

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  1. I love these nests! I always look out for them in the wild and in fact had one in my Cornish hedge last year, but it didn’t self-seed. I had no idea you could buy named varieties, this colour is gorgeous. As are your photos!

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    1. Thanks Jude! I saw them in the wild along road verges, in places it would be difficult to stop for a photograph, so I sowed some seed of ‘Dara’. Then by chance saw lots of the same variety growing at Hemingford Grey, where it looked fabulous – so I fell in love with it!

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  2. We have a wild carrot here by the same name, aka Queen Anne’s Lace, that is not native so most likely brought over from your land by some admirer of the Royalty. πŸ™‚ Ours however does not do what yours does and pretty much remains while with an occasional pink tinge. Good luck with yours getting frosted.

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    1. Thanks Steve! We use the name ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ here too, but it gets a bit confusing because that name is used by some for cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and I’ve seen it used for Ammi majus too.

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  3. I love this plant. For years, I thought it was native here. And, until reading this post, I assumed it always was white. I had no idea that variations have been developed. Every stage is lovely; I can see why you enjoy photographing them.

    One thing I noticed while reading that might interest you (if you don’t already know it): “D. carota, when freshly cut, will draw or change color depending on the color of the water in which it is held. This effect is only visible on the “head” or flower of the plant.” That could increase your photographic opportunities, too!

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  4. Wow – once again a really interesting plant to see! It sure does not look like a carrot. I find it interesting to read historical info on what early man ate and how they were able to promote editable variants. I am sure there is an interesting tale for this one. Good luck with the winter imagining. The pix above are wonderful!

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    1. Thank you Syd! The stories of what man has eaten through history and how plants were selected and later bred must be fascinating…something I’d like time to read up on! πŸ™‚

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      1. Here is the book I am in the mist of reading that was a Pulitzer Prize winner and is called Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and was published in 1999. I find it a little dry but it is interesting if you keep at it. It seems to still be current too. Amazon has lots of used copies for pretty cheap.

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      2. My Dad had that book – actually I think it was one that I bought for him! Could be one for my incredibly long reading list… πŸ™‚

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  5. Goodness me, that top photo looks like some organic alien life form. Never seen anything but white wild carrot before so red is interesting. Good luck with the seed head photography, we’ve no frost to send yet though.

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    1. That seed head does look like it has lots of little tentacles curling inwards, LOL! There’s nothing quite like wild carrot – and it’s great to photograph. πŸ™‚

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