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Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne's lace or "wild carrot", Daucus carota, is the ancestor of the domesticated carrot of Europe, widely introduced in North America. The wild form is a common roadside plant and garden weed in temperate climates. A biennial member of the Parsley family, it can grow upwards of 6 feet tall, bearing an umbel of bright white flowers that turn into a "birds's nest" seed case after blooming. Very similar in appearance to the deadly poison hemlock, it 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 flower in its center.

The root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume. A teaspoon of crushed seeds has long been used as a contraceptive - 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 Queen Anne's lace disrupts the implantation process, and is thus an abortifacient. Chinese studies have also indicated that the seeds block progesterone synthesis, which could explain this effect.

It is recommended that, as with all herbal remedies and wild food gathering, one use appropriate caution. Extra caution should be used in this case, as it bears close resemblance to a dangerous species.

The eponymous 'Queen Anne' is not the familiar Queen Anne but Anne of Denmark, the queen of James I of England.