The genus Daucus Linnaeus and Daucus carota Linnaeus

Remark The words or terms in red (actually dark orange) in the text are defined in a glossary.

The genus Daucus Linnaeus

jul_02_04c.gthmb can't be loaded. The genus Daucus consists of about 600 species, widely distributed, and that are more or less weedy plants. The main species is Daucus carota (photograph at right) that encompasses 16 subspecies including the cultivated form Daucus carota subsp. sativus, the carrot, (some botanist consider it simple as a variety) one of the most popular vegetable crops in the world, with a total production of 24.2 million tons worldwide in 2005.

One of the peculiarities of the species of the Daucus genus are the bracts that conspicuously embrace the umbel of white flowers. Two species of the Daucus genus can be found in North America, Daucus carota and Daucus pusillus, but only the first one if found in Québec. The Daucus genus belongs to the Apiaceae family.

Daucus carota Linnaeus

Daucus carota is native to temperate regions of Europe, southwest Asia; in North America, it was introduced from Europe as a medicinal plant and has been naturalized.

Some botanists list three form of the plant:

Daucus carota is a variable annual (the wild form) or biennal (the cultivated form) plant. As a biennal, the plant consists of a rosette of basal leaves during the first year, bolting upward during the second year to produce flowers and seeds.

Daucus carota is known as being at times highly invasive, out competing native species. This is a serious threat where cultivated carrot are produced because Daucus carota hybridizes with the crop and ruins the crop seeds.


In classical Greek, the word δαυκοσ (daykos) is referred to by Hippocrates and Dioscoride. Hippocrates of Cos (ca. 460 BC - ca. 370 BC), was a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles; he was considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. Dioscoride, was born circa 40 in Anazarbus, Cilicia (Turkey), he died circa 90; he was a physician, pharmacologist and botanist who practiced in Rome at the times of Nero. He was for a long time the wellhead of knowledge about medicinal plants. The has been identified as the Parsnip, also a genus of the Apiaceae family.

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In Latin, the word δαυκοσ became daucum or daucos and is referred to by Plinius Secundus and Aulus Cornelius Celsus. Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder), 23 AD - 70 AD (he died on August 25, AD 79 during the famed eruption of Mount Vesuvius that also destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum) was a naturalist and naval and military commander; he refers to the plant Dacos in his Naturalis Historia (Natural History) (19, 27) and has been identified as the Carrot. Aulus Cornelius Celsus (ca. 25 BC - ca. 50), a Roman encyclopedist and possibly a physician. His only extant work, the De Medicina, is the only surviving section of a much larger encyclopedia, and is a primary source on diet, pharmacy, surgery and related fields. The daucum or daucos has been identified as the Carrot.

In classical Greek, the word καρωτον (karôton) is referred to by Diphilus, born circa 360 - 350 BC, in Sinope, a major poet of Greek Comedy and a significant influence on the Roman playwrights Plautus and Terence.

In Latin, the Greek word καρωτον became carota and is referred to by Marcus Gavius Apicius; he is believed to have been a Roman gourmet who lived sometime in the 1st century AD, during the reign of Tiberius. He is attributed with the authorship of the Roman cookbook Apicius. The work was added to over time, and compiled by an editor (or several editors) during the 4th Century AD. The word carota has been identified as the Carrot.

So a Daucus carota is then a Carrot carrot. And it is interesting to note, as far as orthographic evolution is concerned, that the Latin carota, with a single 'r' and a single 't' became in English Carrot with 2 'r' and a single 't' and in French Carotte with a single 'r' and two 't'.

Common names

The usual vernacular names of Daucus carota are Queen Anne's-lace, Wild Carrot, Bird's Nest . The French vernacular name is Carotte sauvage.


Daucus carota has also been known as:


Daucus carota is distinguished by its: Daucus carota is a bit similar in appearance to the deadly Cicuta maculata; but Daucus carota has fine hairs on the stem, this in not the case of Cicuta maculata, and the later has a smooth stem while the stems of Daucus carota are grooved. Daucus carota is also somewhat similar to Conium maculatum an other deadly plant, and to Sium suave, but the later is not toxic.




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Daucus carota occurs in old pastures, waste places, roadsides, railroads, meadows, open fields, somewhat moist waste land and occasionally as a weed in gardens and flower borders.


Daucus carota is a native plant of Northern Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia), of temperate Asia and of Europe; but it is widely naturalized elsewhere. The map shows the Canadian provinces and USA states where the plant can be found.

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Daucus carota is reported as a serious weed in Afghanistan, Greece, Hungary, and Poland, a principal weed in Jordan, Mauritius, Puerto Rico, Sweden, and Tunisia, and a common weed in Austria, Canada, Egypt, England, Germany, Iran, Iraq, USA, USSR, and West Polynesia.

Daucus carota is often known as Queen Anne's lace because the flower resembles lace and the red flower often present in the center represents a blood droplet where Queen Anne pricked herself with a needle when she was making the lace. The function of the tiny red flower, coloured by anthocyanin , is to attract insects. It is also said that the Queen Anne's lace name was given to Daucus carota because the finely cut, lacy leaves were often used in fashionable dresses and bouquets during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries (Queen Anne was born in 1665).

The seeds of Daucus carota have been used in medicine since the middle centuries. They are a pleasant and diffusive aromatic stimulant, somewhat relaxant, carminative, and acting chiefly upon the kidneys. They are a good adjuvant to other diuretics. The boiled roots also act on the kidneys and form an excellent emollient and gently stimulating poultice in irritable ulcers of all grades. The fresh and unboiled roots, finely grated, make a peculiar stimulating application of great value. They are excellent in all low forms of sores; such as carbuncles, degenerate abscesses, buboes and all fetid ulcers of the malignant, cachectic and scrofulous grades. They correct the fetor, relieve the aching, and quickly promote sound granulation. It is said that they will even abate the suffering of phagedaena and of cancer.

Like the cultivated carrot, Daucus carota root is edible while young, but quickly becomes too woody to consume. A teaspoon of crushed seeds has long been used as a form of birth control; its use for this purpose was first described by Hippocrates over 2,000 years ago. Research conducted on mice has offered a degree of confirmation for this use; it was found that wild carrot disrupts the implantation process, which reinforces its reputation as a contraceptive. Chinese studies have also indicated that the seeds block progesterone synthesis, which could explain this effect. The leaves of Daucus carota can cause phytophotodermatitis, so caution should also be used when handling the plant.

Once the plant was introduced in North America, some natives American tribes used the plant as a food or in folk medicine. The Cherokee used an infusion of the plant against swellings. The Delaware and Mohegan used and infusion of blossoms against diabete. The Iroquois took a decoction to treat pimples and paleness and as a diuretic. The Micmac used the leaves as a purgative. The Haisla, Hanaksiala, Kitasoo, Oweekeno, Sanpoil and Nespelem used the roots as food.


The photos of the gallery were taken either with one of the following: Minolta DiMAGE 7, Canon PowerShot A530, Canon Xt Rebel, usually with the EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM objective, Fujifilm A 610 and EPSON Perfection 1650 (scanner).

The title in the window shows the date when the picture was taken, i.e. jan_30_06... would mean that the photo was taken on the 30th of January, the 06 is for the 6th picture taken that day. The month, day and picture number might be followed by a letter which I use to identify the system used to take the picture.

Click on the thumbnails to get larger view. The original photos are usually in TIFF format, the photos shown are generally in JPEG format, often of dimensions one half (surface one quarter) for loading time reduction.


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Stems, bracts

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Inflorescence, flowers

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Fructification, seeds

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