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Is It a Weed?

Posted: August 2, 2017

Controlling weeds is important in landscape beds. They appear unsightly and compete with the desirable plants for light, nutrients, moisture. In addition, they can harbor insects and increase disease issues as they create a microclimate that is favorable for these pests.
Queen Anne’s Lace is commonly found along roadsides

Queen Anne’s Lace is commonly found along roadsides

Herbicides can be used in a variety of ways but there are times when hand weeding is necessary. Weeding was pretty easy last year as the hot, dry summer slowed down weed germination and growth. In many situations, a weeding pass or two was all that was needed to keep most weeds in check.

Not so this year as the frequent rains may have contributed to some herbicide failures. The moisture plus toasty temperatures have also provided excellent growing conditions for everything, including weeds. And it has been a struggle keeping up with all the weeds.

But the weeding overload in my own landscape provided an opportunity for me to see some of these weeds in a different light. The one weed that has really caught my attention is the non-native Queen Anne’s Lace (also known as wild carrot, Daucus carota). Most folks have seen this plant as it is common along roadsides and areas where there is open ground (such as pastures).

It is a biennial (2-year lifecycle) that grows about 3-4 feet in height. It germinates from seed and forms a cluster of fern-like leaves near the soil surface (basal rosette) in the first year. It gains its height in year two when it sends out the flower stalks, which hold the umbrella-shaped cluster of white flowers.

leaf

leaf – The fern-like leaves of wild carrot

It is the Queen Anne’s lace white flower clusters that caught my attention this year (these were plants that I missed last year when it was in the basal rosette stage). The contrast is beautiful when the wild carrot flowers are next to purple flowering perennials such as liatris (Liatris spicata) and coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Wild carrot and purple cone flower

Flower – the contrast of Queen Anne’s lace flowers to the purple coneflower really pops in the landscape

While those purple flowering perennials are attracting some of the large pollinators, the dainty wild carrot flowers are attracting the smaller (and equally important) pollinators. But they can attract even larger forms of wildlife. The USDA and Pennsylvania Game Commission produced a document, Common Beneficial Plants Found in Wildlife Habitat Established Through CREP and Other Farm Bill Programs where they talk of Queen Anne’s Lace ability to attract ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant and small mammals.

pollination

Pollinators – wild carrot flowers can attract a wide variety of pollinators such as this solitary bee

So why isn’t it used in the landscape more? Some people call it a weed because it has weedy tendencies. Penn State has a profile of it on their Center for Turfgrass Science Plant ID page, One plant can produce anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 seeds. These seeds can easily germinate and outcompete other vegetation in disturbed areas. This really only occurs in open areas as it prefers full sun.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources doesn’t have this on their list of invasive plants), but other states consider it a weed worth watching. Minnesota has placed wild carrot on their list of restricted noxious weeds while Wisconsin categorizes it as a non-regulated invasive plant.

I will see how this interacts within my older landscape beds. While it can be weedy in new and open areas, it is not the most competitive weed around established plants and should be kept in check. If not, it is back to the weeding chore.

Contact Information

Tom Butzler
  • Extension Educator
Phone: 570-726-0022