Tuesday, August 7, 2012

An Annual Wild Carrot Event

Turning my attention to the problem of Wild Carrot, Daucus carota, infestations is an action that I take during mid-summer each year.    I think it’s interesting that this year’s event occurred on exactly the same date as last year’s event.  For two years in a row, August 6 has been the day I began eliminating Wild Carrot at Blue Jay Barrens.

Even though it’s on the list of official Ohio noxious weeds, Wild Carrot is much beloved by many people.  Since its arrival from England, the plant has made itself at home in North America and is perceived by the majority as a natural part of the landscape.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of running through fields full of Wild Carrot.  When prairie creation was just starting to become popular, Wild Carrot seed was included in many of the prairie mixes.  Wild Carrot is used as a medicinal plant and if you don’t have access to the plant in your neighborhood, there are many sources that will sell you a supply of seed.

The reason for the dark purple flower in the center of the cluster is cause for much speculation.  As a child, I believed the purple flower signified a source of disease.  I spent a lot of time plucking the sick flower from the flower heads.  A currently popular theory is that the dark center imitates and attracts pollinating insects.

Beetles are supposed to be a prime pollinator of Wild Carrot flowers.  It does seem that beetles are frequently found on these flower heads.  However it’s accomplished, Wild Carrot seems to produce an abundance of viable seed.

I’ve been removing Wild Carrots from the prairies for many years.  The plant is a biennial, so several years of pulling severely depletes the available seed supply.  Sometimes, weather extremes help to reduce the population size.  On the dry sites, this year’s number of blooming Wild Carrot plants is quite low.  This is allowing me to clear a lot of areas with minimal work.

Areas that I’ve worked on before are almost cleared of plants.  The drought has hurt many seed producing plants, so seed predators will have to put in extra work this winter to find enough to eat.  I’m hoping that those Wild Carrots that do manage to produce seeds are set upon by some voracious seed eaters.

Wild Carrot plants growing in areas of better soil produce several flower heads.  A single plant may produce thousands of seeds that can become scattered over a large area.  I have hopes of squeezing in a couple full days of carrot pulling during the next week.

The rain showers have softened the soil enough that a large portion of the carrot root can be removed.  It’s easy to see the resemblance between this wild root and the cultivated varieties it has spawned.  In fact, this is what cultivated carrot varieties look like when I try to grow them in my garden.  Extracting this much root pretty much puts an end to the carrot’s seed producing ability.  I hope to collect several pounds of these roots over the next few days.

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