The Wild Carrot (Daucus carota ssp carota) grows on grassland, roadsides and hedgerows throughout the British Isles, especially near the sea and on calcareous soils. In Dorset some of the best sites to find it in abundance are along coastal paths.
How to spot a wild carrot
Wild Carrot is in flower from June to August. It is biennial and seeds will grow only leaves in their first year, flower in their second year and die after setting seed. Hundreds of small white flowers are held in small umbels joined into one large umbel at the top of the sturdy stem up to 100cm high. In the centre of the flowers is one dark red flower which may serve to attract pollinating insects to the flowers. The leaves are finely divided into leaflets and smell carroty when crushed, but can be an irritant to skin. This scent attracts Carrot Flies whose larva can riddle your garden crop of domesticated carrots with holes.
Can you include them in your 5 a day?
The domesticated carrot Daucus carota ssp sativus originated in Asia and has a much more substantial tap root. It is related to the Wild Carrot but technically a distinct subspecies. Generations of cultivation of Wild Carrot, which has thin roots not substantial enough for eating, will not lead to a selection that produces the easily edible roots of the domesticated carrot.
Just how many types of carrot are there in the south?
There is another subspecies of Wild Carrot that grows in Britain on the South Coast; Sea Carrot (Daucus carota ssp gummifer). This species usually finishes flowering by the end of July. Its leaflets are fleshier and better suited to the dry coastal environment. Sea Carrot can more easily be distinguished from Wild Carrot when the flowers have turned into ripe seeds. Sea Carrot seed heads are convex or flat and Wild Carrot seed heads are concave like birds’ nests.
What else can you spot in Dorset this month? Take a look at our monthly article What's Happening in May