1. Family: Apiaceae Lindl.
    1. Genus: Daucus L.
      1. Daucus carota L.

        Wild carrot is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), which includes parsnip, parsley, fennel and angelica.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Wild carrot has delicate white flower heads and a thin, wiry taproot bearing little resemblance to the fleshy, bright orange root vegetable produced commercially.

    Wild carrot is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae), which includes parsnip, parsley, fennel and angelica.

    Wild forms have thin, wiry taproots, bearing little resemblance to the bright orange, fleshy root vegetable available commercially, although both share the characteristic carrot fragrance. Delicate white flower heads are produced after the second year of growth, and these have inspired the common name Queen Anne’s lace.

    The orange colour of cultivated carrots is due to a high concentration of beta-carotene. This is a precursor of vitamin A, which is important for growth, development and good vision. This link between carrots and good eye health probably gave rise to the common suggestion to children reluctant to eat their vegetables – eating carrots will help you to see in the dark!

    The spiny fruits have been considered to have diuretic properties and have been used in the treatment of kidney complaints and dropsy.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Wild carrot is thought to have originated on the Iranian Plateau (an area which now includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran). It now grows across much of western Asia and Europe.

    It occurs in free-draining and slightly acidic soils on rough grassland, coastal cliffs and dunes. It frequently naturalises in fields and gardens.


    Overview: A biennial (flowers produced after the second year of growth) up to 150 cm tall with a grooved, hairless or bristly stem.

    Leaves: Finely divided, giving a feathery appearance. Upper leaves are reduced and have a sheathing petiole (leaf stalk). Leaves have a characteristic carrot odour.

    Roots: Small (in comparison to commercial carrots), tough, pale-fleshed taproot.

    Flowers: White to purple-tinged, borne in late summer in umbrella-like clusters (umbels) up to 7 cm in diameter, with many bracts underneath. The umbels can be concave, flat or convex. Central flowers of the umbel are sometimes dark purple.

    Flowering heads become concave (and are considered to resemble birds’ nests) when they turn to seed.

    Fruits: Dry schizocarp (splitting into two single-seeded portions), 2–4 mm in diameter, with spiny ridges. The spiny fruits attach to the fur of passing animals, aiding seed dispersal.

    Purple, white and yellow – colourful carrot history

    It is thought that the familiar orange carrot in cultivation today originated in the area around Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan and had roots that were dark purple due to the presence of the pigment anthocyanin. Dark red and purple carrots are still grown in Afghanistan today.

    Wild carrot was taken westwards from this region to Asia Minor (in the 10th or 11th century), Spain (12th century) and northwestern Europe (by the 15th century), and eastwards to China (in the 13th or 14th century) and Japan (by the 17th century). Some mutant yellow and white forms, devoid of anthocyanin, occurred at some stage.

    Evidence from documents and paintings (including Christ and the Adulterers by Pieter Aertsen, 1559) suggests that carrots cultivated in northwestern Europe up to the 16th century were all purple or yellow and long. The yellow forms were usually preferred as the pigment from purple forms stained soups and sauces.

    Selective breeding of yellow carrots in the Netherlands in the 17th century gave rise to carrots with a higher concentration of orange pigment (beta-carotene). Following this, further cultivars were produced giving rise to the immense variety of root shapes, sizes and colours available today.

    Carrots in Babylon?

    Wild carrot appears in a list of plants grown in the royal garden of Babylon in the 8th century BC. It was included in the list of aromatic herbs (rather than that of vegetables), so it is thought to have been grown for its fragrant leaves or seeds.

    UsesWild carrot

    Wild carrot is sometimes cultivated as an ornamental, being particularly useful for meadow areas of wildlife gardens. It is a food plant for the caterpillars of swallowtail butterflies (such as Papilio machaon and P. polyxenes) and a source of pollen and nectar for bees. Wild carrot reproduces by seed and can be prolific, so should be prevented from going to seed in a garden situation.

    Flower heads are attractive in fresh or dry flower arrangements, and the bird nest-like seed heads are also useful for dry arrangements.

    Daucus carota subspecies sativus

    Daucus carota subspecies sativus is cultivated as an annual across much of the temperate and tropical world for its edible, orange storage roots. Carrot is a major root vegetable for human consumption, and also an important fodder crop, with world production of over 20 million megatons.

    Carrots are eaten raw in salads; cooked in soups, stir-fries, and casseroles; served alone as a side vegetable; and processed to make baby foods. Carrot is frequently used as a colourful garnish, often grated, sometimes sculpted into decorative flower-like shapes.

    Carrot juice is popular as a healthy drink, both alone or mixed with other vegetable and fruit juices. Carrots are used in sweet dishes such as carrot cake and in Asia often used in jams and syrups.

    Carrots are a source of the natural food dye carotene. Carrot fruit oil has been used for flavouring liqueurs and as an ingredient in cosmetics.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    More than 80 collections of Daucus carotaseeds are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew’s Seed Information Database for further information on Daucus carota seeds

    This species at Kew

    Daucus carota can usually be seen growing in the Plant Family Beds and Student Vegetable Plots at Kew.

    Pressed and dried specimens of Daucus carota are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens, including images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

    View details and images of specimens online

    Specimens of seeds, roots and seed oil of wild carrot are held in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    Rough grassland, coastal cliffs and dunes.
    Widespread and not considered to be threatened.

    Wild carrot has some medical properties and is similar in appearance to poisonous species such as poison hemlock ( Conium maculatum), water hemlock ( Cicuta maculata) and fool's parsley ( Aethusa cynapium).



    Found In:

    Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Austria, Azores, Baleares, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Is., Central European Rus, China South-Central, China Southeast, Corse, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Aegean Is., East European Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Kriti, Krym, Lebanon-Syria, Madeira, Morocco, Nepal, Netherlands, Northwest European R, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, West Siberia, Yugoslavia

    Introduced Into:

    Alabama, Amsterdam-St.Paul Is, Andaman Is., Angola, Bangladesh, Cape Provinces, Colorado, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Easter Is., Finland, Haiti, Illinois, India, Jamaica, Kermadec Is., Korea, Leeward Is., Mexico Central, Mexico Northeast, New Mexico, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Nicobar Is., North European Russi, Northern Provinces, Puerto Rico, Sudan, Tennessee

    Common Names

    Wild carrot

    Daucus carota L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jun 1, 1984 s.coll [2286], Iran K000782463
    Jan 10, 1977 s.coll [1198], Egypt K000782514
    Dec 30, 1976 Botteri, N. [s.n.], Croatia K000782335
    Dec 1, 1976 Irssidden, W. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782180
    Dec 1, 1976 Ross-Craig, S. [1543], United Kingdom K000782216
    Dec 1, 1976 Renvoize, S.A. [345], Spain K000782371
    Dec 1, 1976 Brenam, J.P.M. [9968], Portugal K000782373
    Dec 1, 1976 Townsend, C.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782378
    Dec 1, 1976 s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782379
    Dec 1, 1976 s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782380
    Dec 1, 1976 Eshiting, M.M. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782381
    Dec 1, 1976 Barton, W.C. [s.n.], Guernsey K000782382
    Dec 1, 1976 Louis-Arsene [1711], Jersey K000782383
    Dec 1, 1976 s.coll [1866], France K000782387
    Dec 1, 1976 s.coll [2531], France K000782388
    Dec 1, 1976 Forsyth, Major. [H292-23], France K000782391
    Dec 1, 1976 Renvoize, S.A. [342], Spain K000782395
    Dec 1, 1976 Caballero, A. [s.n.], Morocco K000782397
    Dec 1, 1976 Kennedy, T.W. [70], Spain K000782399
    Dec 1, 1976 Maitland, T.D. [95], Israel K000782520
    Dec 1, 1976 Furse, P. [9023], Iran K000782521
    Dec 1, 1976 s.coll [810], Cyprus K000782523
    Dec 1, 1976 Mapple. [97], Cyprus K000782524
    Dec 1, 1976 Faure, A. [s.n.], Algeria K000782534
    Dec 1, 1976 Pampanini, R. [5470], Libya K000782535
    Dec 1, 1976 Sandwith, N.Y. [2639; 39582], Libya K000782537
    Dec 1, 1976 Allard, C. [2898], Algeria K000782538
    Dec 1, 1976 Hooker [s.n.], Morocco K000782539
    Dec 1, 1976 Hooker [s.n.], Morocco K000782540
    Dec 1, 1976 Faure, A. [s.n.], Algeria K000782541
    Dec 1, 1976 Jamin, P. [168], Algeria K000782545
    Dec 1, 1976 Hooker [s.n.], Morocco K000782546
    Nov 1, 1976 Caballero, A. [s.n.], Morocco K000782314
    Nov 1, 1976 Toziponé, T. [38], Croatia K000782337
    Bruce, E.A. [36], United Kingdom K000782181
    Hepper, F.N. [475], United Kingdom K000782184
    Wright, C.H. [132], United Kingdom K000782185
    Broad, D. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782186
    Woesdell, W.C. [282/1], United Kingdom K000782190
    Wright, C.H. [223], United Kingdom K000782191
    Barkill, J.H. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782192
    Wyatt, J.W. [60], United Kingdom K000782193
    s.coll [245], United Kingdom K000782194
    Summerhayes, V.S. [99], United Kingdom K000782196
    s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782197
    Roper, I.M. [767], United Kingdom K000782198
    s.coll [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782199
    Melville, R. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782202
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 7214] K001126928
    Gamble, J.S. [27972], United Kingdom K000782204
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 7214] K001126929
    Wyatt, J.W. [248], United Kingdom K000782205
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 7214] K001126930
    Wyatt, J.W. [187], United Kingdom K000782206
    Wyatt, J.W. [216], United Kingdom K000782207
    Reynolds, L. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782210
    Townsend, C.C. [s.n.], United Kingdom K000782211
    Sheahan, M.C. [MCS61], United Kingdom K000782212
    Callum-Webster, M.M. [5142], United Kingdom K000782215
    Callier, A. [617], Ukraine K000782236
    Hepper, F.N. [9981], France K000782249
    Edmond, M.E. [6], Spain K000782317
    Edmond, M.E. [182], Spain K000782318
    s.coll [72], Spain K000782320
    Townsend, C.C. [85/34], Greece K000782324
    Ingoldby, C.M. [328], Turkey K000782345
    Warren, R.C. [34], Iran K000782464
    Makashvili, A. [s.n.], Georgia K000782483
    Protmeroe, J. [12], Turkey K000782487
    Miller, N.F. [883], Turkey K000782498
    Lambert, M.R.K. [501], Turkey K000782511
    Cope, T.A. [RBG 549], Great Britain K000914628
    Day, C.D. [685], Turkey K000341680

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 242 (1753)

    Accepted in:

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    • [12] (2012) Harvard Papers in Botany 17: 65-167
    • [13] (2012) Indian Journal of Forestry 35: 79-84
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