004 Daucus carota L.
Nome comune: Carota selvatica
Daucus carota (common names include wild carrot, (UK) bird's nest, bishop's lace, and (US) Queen Anne's lace) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia and naturalised to northeast North America and Australia; domesticated carrots are cultivars of a subspecies, Daucus carota subsp. sativus.
Daucus carota is a variable biennial plant, usually growing up to 1 m tall and flowering from June to August. The umbels are claret-coloured or pale pink before they open, then bright white and rounded when in full flower, measuring 3–7 cm wide with a festoon of bracts beneath; finally, as they turn to seed, they contract and become concave like a bird's nest. The dried umbels detach from the plant, becoming tumbleweeds.
Very similar in appearance to the deadly Poison Hemlock, Daucus carota is distinguished by a mix of bi-pinnate and tri-pinnate leaves, fine hairs on its stems and leaves, a root that smells like carrots, and occasionally a single dark red flower in its center.
See carrot for the modern cultivated forms of the species.
This beneficial weed can be used as a companion plant to crops. Like most umbellifers it attracts predatory wasps to its small flowers in its native land; however, where it has been introduced it attracts only very few of such wasps . This species is also documented to boost tomato plant production when kept nearby, and it can provide a microclimate of cooler, moister air for lettuce, when intercropped with it.
Like the cultivated carrot, the wild carrot root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume. A teaspoon of crushed seeds has long been used as a form of birth control; its use for this purpose was first described by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. Research conducted on mice has offered a degree of confirmation for this use—it was found that wild carrot disrupts the implantation process, which reinforces its reputation as a contraceptive. Chinese studies have also indicated that the seeds block progesterone synthesis, which could explain this effect.
As with all herbal remedies and wild food gathering, extra caution should be used, especially since the wild carrot bears close resemblance to a dangerous species Poison Hemlock. The leaves of the wild carrot can cause phytophotodermatitis, so caution should also be used when handling the plant.
The wild carrot, when freshly cut, will draw or change color depending on the color of the water it is in. Note that this effect is only visible on the "head" or flower of the plant. Carnation also exhibits this effect. This occurrence is a popular science experiment in primary grade school.