The life force of words and wild things.

The Queen Anne’s Lace, or Daucus carota, one of the “wildflowers of the carrot family,” is in full glory this month along the creek near my house. It was a mild winter and a wet spring; though we are now well into the dry season, their plantation is lush.

Once before I posted a gallery of images of them, various angles and perspectives. This week my walk along the path was greatly extended and I explored the current neighborhood that has grown up, full of a unique assortment of plants and animals developing from this year’s natural and man-provoked conditions. That means a completely new gallery!

The picture just above shows a morning glory weed or bindweed (Convolvulus), which has twined around the stem of an opened flower, grown on through a bud, and is now reaching out into space. It has an opened flower just above the lower Queen Anne’s Lace bloom. And I just noticed a little seed of something, close to the bottom of the photo, and about to drop down, down… and make a contribution to next spring’s neighborhood.

Fennel in the background.

In my last gallery of Queen Anne’s Lace, I featured the red spots that are found in the center of many of the blooms. This year what were more eyecatching were insects and the other umbellifers.

I learned that word almost a year ago when Pippin and I were exploring wetlands together. As I walked along my nearby creek path I began to think about the flower form that Queen Anne’s Lace shares with the wild fennel nearby, and the word was struggling along my mind’s synapses for several minutes… and finally arrived where I could grab it. Today I researched its meaning again; it comes from the old name for the plant Family Apiaceae, which was Umbelliferae.

I found several helpful webpages besides the Wikipedia information. One has a timeline of North American invasive species: “We came on the Mayflower, too!“, where I learned that our wild fennel likely did come with those first pilgrims in 1620, and it spread all over the continent. That site also has lots of recipes for using wild plants, and I would be interested to try using the tender green fronds of fennel, or even the stems. But on the fennel page they were a little sloppy with their botany, telling me that fennel and anise are the same thing, which they are not.

Let’s start with fennel, which is my neighbor: its botanical name is  Foeniculum vulgare. Anise is Pimpinella anisum. They are both in the Apiaceae family but different genera. The fleshy bulb that is eaten as a vegetable is a fennel bulb. Anise looks very similar in the field, but I don’t ever see reference to eating the bulb.

On the Spiceography page I read a paragraph-long comparison of the seeds, which both contain the essential oil anethole. I found its guidelines confusing, and concluded that I will just try to use whichever seed a recipe calls for. By the way, two other plants with this flavor but completely unrelated and different in form are star anise and liquorice.

Anise is an ingredient in many alcoholic beverages traditional to the Mediterranean and Asia. At least one of them, absinthe, includes fennel as well. I was pleased to see a map showing the locales and the names of the drinks.

When I was in Turkey I did enjoy rakı. (Yes, that is an i without a dot. It designates a schwa or ə sound.) Usually it was served with water; you would pour a little rakı in your glass and then add water. It turned all milky then, as in this picture. No one ever tried to explain to me why this happened, and I doubt they could have if they knew, because when I read the explanation for it now it’s very complicated to my unscientific mind: The Ouzo Effect.

Fennel flower

I seem to have drifted from flowers to food and drink (passing quickly over insects). Truly this earth is full of enough animal, vegetable and mineral to keep us forever occupied examining, experimenting, cooking and brewing — and thanking our Father for putting us in a world so packed with beauty and life.

8 thoughts on “The life force of words and wild things.

  1. I was wondering about the yellow flower in the next to last photo. Is that cow parsnip? I’ve seen photos of cow parsnip on Facebook lately with warnings that it can cause horrible blistering to the skin if touched. Not sure if that’s true or just another Facebook myth. Maybe that’s not even what this yellow flower is, but it reminded me of that warning.

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      1. I have mentioned cow parsnip on my blog a couple of times. In this post I have a picture of it next to another member of that plant family:
        https://gretchenjoanna.com/2013/06/09/oregon-sand-waves-and-the-carrot-family/

        And another sighting of it here: https://gretchenjoanna.com/2011/08/12/sunless-and-satisfying-day/

        Here is the Wikipedia article about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracleum_maximum I’m glad you asked about it so that I could re-read that!

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  2. We don’t have Queen Anne’s Lace in Montana, so I thoroughly enjoyed your gallery of photos. And the insects, too! I often find that I don’t notice the insects until I am working on a post, and then there they are! Thanks for your recent visit to my blog, and your kind comments. I hope we can visit each other again soon.

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  3. Queen Anne’s lace is lovely. I found some in our yard and made a bouquet with it and black-eyed Susan’s. And fennel looks similar, as do dill and carrot, of course, but beware poison parsnip, looks similar, reacts like poison ivy!

    The last photo of a pinkish one is so pretty.

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  4. I learn and see so much in your photos and descriptions. I only saw the falling seed after you mentioned it, but how beautiful and delicate it is and to think we miss so much like it.

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