Sunday, September 04, 2016

Lacy nests

As summer ends, the flowers that brighten our waste spaces droop, wither, and fall into a soggy brown mass, rotting in the rain. One, Queen Anne's lace, perseveres, as beautiful in her winter outfit as she was in her summer whites.

Tall grasses and Queen Anne's lace, Tyee Spit. There are still a few white flowers left on these stalks.

As the seeds develop, the flower closes down into a cup or birds' nest shape.

Each large umbel is composed of many small umbellets. Each umbellet contains many flowers, each on their own stalk. Each flower produces two seeds, encased in a spiky pod.

The outer seed pods will split open and scatter their seeds. A few will remain all winter in the protected centre, like eggs in a bird's nest.

Queen Anne's lace is the ancestor of our common carrot, and all parts of the plant are edible.

Using first year Queen Anne’s lace plants are recommended. Roots are long, pale, woody, and are finger-thin and are used in soups, stews and in making tea. First year leaves can be chopped and tossed into a salad. Flower clusters can be ‘french-fried’ or fresh flowers can be tossed into a salad. The aromatic seed is used as a flavoring in stews and soups. (ediblewildfood . com)

There is one caveat: Queen Anne's lace looks very much like the poison hemlock, so it is essential to be able to identify each one. The simplest clue is in the flower head; Queen Anne's lace usually has one tiny purple flower in the centre of the white umbel. But since this is a biennial plant, and no flowers are produced the first year, I think I'll pass on the salad and root stews. The seeds will be safe enough, if I've seen the flower heads already.

I found a blog, Raven's Roots, with a post showing very clearly (with photos and text), how to identify poison hemlock vs. QAL. Worth bookmarking.

Also worth seeing is a photo exploration of QAL, from its earliest flowers to microscopic photos of seeds. Here.

All three photos taken on the western bank of Tyee Spit.


  1. Here in Crete the bugs absolutely adore these plants and I featured both them and the QAL in one of my blogs last year.

  2. I had to laugh; most of my photos of soldier beetles (almost all on QAL) are busy starting families, too!


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