Tag Archives: Queen Anne’s Lace

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 a 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.

Studies in the drop of blood.

IMG_6969 QAL bridge 6-5-18

Not all Queen Anne’s Lace flowers have the bit of red in the middle. The story is told about how one of the queens Anne — no agreement on which — pricked her finger while sewing, and a drop of blood fell on her tatting. That’s where the red spot comes from! One of my readers told me this story, I thought Linda, but I can’t find the comment…

One day this spring I saw so many variations on this phenomenon, I made a collection. Today I photographed bees and a wasp on the same flowers, but I want to post these earlier pictures instead of bees for a change. They are in the order I snapped them.

No blood was spilled in the process of assembling this album.

A blaze and a blur, and a reasonable moon.

Yesterday when I set out on my walk it was already noon, but I was chilly from working at my computer in the cold corner of the house. I thought about how if I looped my path counterclockwise the southern sun would be at my back as I walked north on a long straight stretch out in the open. And it turned out just as I’d hoped. At least five minutes of heaven’s heat lamp bringing me up to a comfortable temperature.

But this pale and clear morning I left the house before sunrise and before the thermometer had climbed past 40°. Soon the cold was stinging my earlobes and hands, and my nose and eyes were watery. I saw the sun rise over the foothills to the east – what a privilege to witness that daily gift. A quote from G.K. Chesterton came to mind, about the sun rising daily because God decides again that He would like to raise it, but I can’t find that one. [Note: DeAnn found the quote for me and you can read it in the Comments below!] This from my files also stirs the mind and soul:

“The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing.

“Of necessary dogmas and a special creed I shall speak later. But that transcendentalism by which all men live has primarily much the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name.”

As I was beginning to type here, a friend wrote me that I really should look at tonight’s big harvest moon — so I went out front, and there it was in my favorite setting above the tree across the street, and well worth the interruption! Yes, light without heat, but beautiful, and a joyous link between me and all my loved ones who are looking up tonight at the same reflecting ball.

The Queen Anne’s Lace above the creek did not keep blooming as long as I expected. But some of the blooms are quite spectacular in their dramatic and seed-full drying-out. This was the main thing I wanted to show you tonight!

Queen Anne’s Lace in late September

HAPPY OCTOBER!

Effusions and fields of aromatic lace.

The heavy and late rains that fell 2016-17
watered the Queen Anne’s Lace into a bumper crop.

It’s not as though this wildflower Daucus carota needs much water.
Even in drought years it faithfully decorates
the roadsides and paths all over northern California,
and of course many other places where I don’t happen to see it.

All of my photos here come from the paths near my house,
where I walk once or twice almost every day,
past these swaths of what I read is also called Wild Carrot, Bird’s Nest,
and Bishop’s Lace, though I’ve never heard those names in person.

One warm evening I began to notice that the flowers were giving off a scent
like cake coming out of the oven.

More recently, they evoke corn tortillas hot off the griddle.

When I encounter another walker who shows the slightest sign of being willing to talk,
I tell them to get a whiff of what my flower friends are offering for sustenance.

I never noticed these scents in the past,
when I had fewer blooms to focus on, more visually.
But this is a festal year for lacy Anne blooms,
and I happily look forward to several more months
of sensory overload.
If you breathe really deeply and concentrate hard…
can you smell them, too?