About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wild plants that combine unique shape, fascinating folklore and practical uses.

As the summer days wane (sigh), daylight grows shorter, nights get cooler and the wildflowers grow high. Two of the most common wildflowers seen along the roadside, Queen Anne’s Lace and Common Teasel are both non-native species.

Common Teasel Dipsacus fullonum was imported from Europe into North America, possibly as an ornamental flower but more often because the dried flowers were used in wool production. The dried heads were harvested by wool companies to attach to spindles and “tease” wool cloth.
Today it can be found throughout Michigan. It blooms from July to September and Goldfinches and blackbirds feeding on the seed heads are one reason the seeds have dispersed so widely.
The name 'Dipsacus' was derived from the Greek verb meaning "to be thirsty," which is likely in reference to the multiple water-collecting cups formed by the stem leaves. Birds like to sip from these shallow pools and sometimes insects become trapped in the water and the plants absorb their nutrients as they decompose.
Queen Anne's Lace Daucus carota also called "Wild Carrot," was also introduced from Europe, and the carrots that we eat today were once cultivated from this plant. This fern-like plant is best known for its flowers, which are tiny and white, blooming in lacy, flat-topped clusters with a dark, purplish floret center.

It is a biennial plant that blooms from May to October. The plant does have some benefits. The caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail butterfly eat the leaves, bees and other insects drink the nectar, and predatory insects, such as the Green Lacewing, come to Queen Anne's Lace to attack prey, such as aphids.

The origin of its common name is a little unclear. There are several anecdotes as to why the Carrot Flower is named the Queen Anne’s Lace.

1. A Queen is represented by the purple floret and the white florets make up her lace collar.
2. Another story associated with the name describes the occasion of Queen Anne of England (1655-1714) pricking her finger while making lace, staining the lace with blood.
3. English botanist Geoffrey Grigson suggests that the name of the plant comes not from a Queen of England but from Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary and the patron saint of lace makers.
4. Or supposedly, when the future Queen Anne arrived from Denmark to become the queen of King James I of England she challenged the ladies in waiting to a contest to see who could produce a pattern of lace as fine and lovely as the flower of the wild carrot. The ladies knew that no one could rival the queen's handiwork so it became a triumph for Anne. She however, pricked her finger with a needle and a single drop of blood fell into the lace, that is said to be the dark purple floret in the center of the flower.

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