Daucus carota L.

First published in Sp. Pl.: 242 (1753)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Macaronesia to NW. Africa, Europe to S. China. It is a biennial and grows primarily in the temperate biome. It is used as animal food, a poison and a medicine and for food.

Descriptions

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

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.

Description

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.

Uses Wild 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 carota seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

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.

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.

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

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).

[KSP]

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/172210/19412090

Conservation
LC - least concern
[IUCN]

Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change Project, 2015. Azerbaijan Crop Wild Relatives Seed Collecting Guide. Compiled by Laura Jennings, RBG Kew. Updated 2018 by Richard Allen, RBG Kew.

Ecology
mountain slopes, ruderal areas. altitude 0 - 3000 m mountain slopes, ruderal areas. altitude0 - 3000 m Mountain slopes, ruderal areas. Altitude: 0 - 3000 m mountain slopes, ruderal areas. altitude 0 - 3000 m.
Morphology General Habit
Biennial, 1st year plants composed of a rosette of leaves, 2nd year plants bolting to 120 cm
Morphology Leaves
Basal leaves oblong, 2-3-pinnate/pinnatisect, ultimate segments linear to lanceolate, 2-15 x 0.5-4 mm, glabrous to hispid especially on the veins and margins, apex acute, mucronate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Solitary, compound umbels on long peduncle, flat-topped or slightly domed Each inflorescence has 20-90 umbellets, each umbellet has 15-60 flowers
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Peduncles
Peduncles 10-55 cm, retrorsely hispid, bracts foliaceous, pinnate, rarely entire, lobes linear, 3-30 mm, margins scarious, rays 2-7.5 cm, unequal, bracteoles 5-7, linear, entire or 2-3-lobed, more or less scarious and ciliate, equalling or exceeding flowers
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
2-3 mm across, petals white, sometimes yellow or pinkish
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
2-seeded schizocarps, about 3-4 mm long by 2 mm wide, ellipsoid, slightly flattened, bristly at fruiting stage umbel folds inwards into a more-or-less spheroid shape.
Conservation
least concerned. Least concerned. least concern least concerned
Phenology
flower (may - july), fruit (july - september). flowering (May – July), fruit (July – September). flower (may-july), fruit (july- september) flower (may - july), fruit (july - september)
Distribution
worldwide in temperate regions. Worldwide in temperate regions. worldwide in temperate regions. Worldwide in temperate regions.
Habit
biennial, 1st year plants composed of a rosette of leaves, 2nd year plants bolting to 120 cm biennial, 1st year plants composed of a rosette of leaves, 2nd year plants bolting to 120 cm biennial, 1st year plants composed of a rosette of leaves, 2nd year plants bolting to 120 cm biennial, 1st year plants composed of a rosette of leaves, 2nd year plants bolting to 120 cm
[SCG]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
zanahoria, zanahoria amarilla
[UNAL]

M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Erect annual or biennial herb up to 1 m tall, usually hispidly hairy, with a swollen usually orange taproot
Morphology Leaves
Leaves 2–3-pinnate with linear to lanceolate segments
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Umbels strongly contracted in fruit; rays 30–50, unequal; bracts once or twice pinnately divided; bracteoles of outer partial umbels 3-fid, of the inner entire
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Petals white, often with one or more purple flowers in the central umbel
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruits 2–4 mm long.
Distribution
Cultivated at least in N1 and N2, now widespread in cultivation.
Vernacular
Carrot (English)
Note
The wild and cultivated carrots all belong to D. carota in a wide sense. This is a highly complex taxon and the cultivated forms are often placed in subsp. sativus (Hoffm.) Arcangeli. For an account of the origin of the cultivated carrot, see Heywood in Isr. J. Bot. 32: 51–65 (1983).
[FSOM]

Distribution
Biogeografic region: Andean. Elevation range: 2550–2850 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Bogotá DC, Cundinamarca.
Habit
Herb.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, native grassland, artificial - terrestrial.
Vernacular
Zanahoria
[UPFC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 2550 - 2850 m.; Andes.
Morphology General Habit
Hierba
[CPLC]

Ghazanfar, S. A. & Edmondson, J. R (Eds). (2014) Flora of Iraq, Volume 5 Part 2: Lythraceae to Campanulaceae.

Morphology General Habit
Erect annual or biennial, 30–100 cm, subglabrous to densely hispid, especially in the lower part of the stem
Morphology Stem
Stem solid, striate or sulcate, hairs in the lower part deflexed
Morphology Leaves
Lower leaves oblong in outline, shortly petiolate to subsessile on the attenuate, expanded sheaths, bi- or tri-pinnatisect into oblong-ovate or broadly lanceolate, incised segments Upper leaves shorter, sessile on shorter sheaths, 1- or 2-pinnate with narrower, more elongate and divaricate segments
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Umbels rather few, to 13 cm in diameter in full flower but frequently much less, strongly contracted in fruit with the long outer rays curving in over the shorter inner rays; rays very numerous, sparsely hispid to subglabrous
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracts Involucre
Involucre of 7–12 simply pinnate bracts, bracts glabrous or long-strugose, conspicuous, white-margined below, margin webbing across to the lowest pinnae
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences Bracteoles
Bracteoles ± 8, linear-lanceolate, simple or trifid, membranous-margined, subequalling the largest pedicels
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Central flower frequently blackish purple
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Outer petals somewhat larger but not conspicuously radiant
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Fruit 2–3 mm, secondary ridges with 6–8 or by fission 12–16 slender, glochidiate spines in a single row. Primary ridges filiform, with rows of bristles diverging at 90°
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Styles slender, 0.75–1 mm, flexuose-divaricate.
Ecology
Mainly segetal and ruderal, on mountains on disturbed ground under light Quercus scrub, waste land in gardens, heavily eroded sandstone, by roadside, dry fields, edge of riverine seepage swamps in the steppe, irrigated fields, orchards and gardens in the desert; alt. 50–950(–1150) m
Phenology
Flowering and fruiting: (Apr.–) Jun.–Jul.(–Aug.).
Distribution
Occasional in the lower forest zone and steppe region of Iraq, rarer on the irrigated alluvial plain in the desert region. Europe, Aegean Isles, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Arabia, Turkey, Caucasus, Iran, Pakistan, C Asia (Turkmenistan to Siberia), India, China, Japan, Philippines & Australia, Macaronesia (Madeira, Canary Is.), N Africa (Morocco, Algeria), Ethiopia, S Africa, N, C & S America. Cosmopolitan in temperate and sub-tropical regions of the world.
Note
Carrot; JAZAR (Ar.), ?JIZER (Kurd.), HUWAICH or ZERDEK (Pers., Parsa), HĀWŪCH (Turk.) – some of these names being variously spelled by different authors.? UZAIRAH (Kurd.-Ain Sifni, Salim 2580 reported to be presumably the herbage, “poisonous to sheep”; ?GIYĀ FALLA (Kurd.-Shaikhan, Salim 2598 as “a forage plant”).
[FIQ]

Uses

Use
Food and drink.
[KSP]

Use
Widely cultivated for its edible root rich in sugars and vitamins, especially A and C.
[FSOM]

Use Animal Food
Used as animal food.
Use Gene Sources
Used as gene sources.
Use Food
Used for food.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Poisons.
[UPFC]

Use
Wren (1956) states that the plant top is medicinal: diuretic, stimulant and deobstruent, a valuable remedy in folk medicine in cases of dropsy, retention of urine, gravel and bladder afflictions, as also noted by Rawi & Chakravarty (1964) and Chakravarty (1976) who describes its medicinal properties in greater detail. As opposed to the wild forms, the cultivated carrot is widely known as a useful vegetable and grown as such in many countries.
[FIQ]

Common Names

English
Carrot, Wild carrot

Sources

  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of Iraq

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Flora of Somalia

    • Flora of Somalia
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    • Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • IUCN Categories

    • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

    • Copyright applied to individual images
  • Kew Species Profiles

    • Kew Species Profiles
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Seed Collection Guides

    • Kew Bulletin
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    • ColPlantA database
    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    • http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0