Daucus carota is a species from Europe and western Asia, introduced into several countries including America, probably inadvertently imported with grain seed. The plants are biennial, meaning it they take two to three years to bloom from seed, after which time they will set seed and die. They are similar to the cultivated carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus), and have white taproots that smell like carrots, but are typically far too woody to be considered edible unless they are very young and still somewhat tender. The flower cluster, an either flat-topped or domed inflorescence, is composed of hundreds of even smaller umbels of simple five-petaled flowers. Often, a single reddish to maroon colored flower sits in the dead center, speculated to attract pollinators. The plants are variable, growing anywhere from under a foot tall to over four feet. The leaves are fern-like.
|Daucus carota panoramic|
This year has shown to be just right for the carrots, they have flowered more prolifically than any preceding year that I have lived here, which is around six years. Out of a mix of a lack of available time, laziness, and a touch of curiosity I have left our field unmowed. This has allowed all of the flowering plants that have bloomed thus far to set seed uninterrupted, but as a consequence is also good for hiding pests like ticks (deer frequent the field daily). The panorama does not do it justice, there are a thousand flower umbels just in this scene.
Despite everything I've read in books on the subject, my honeybees are working the wild carrot eagerly, as the photos and the video below will illustrate. I think they are primarily interested in the nectar, but they all seemed to have a small amount of pollen on their legs (this is incidental, a consequence of running all over the flowers, I suspect).
As this video (above) shows, the bees work their way from floret to floret until they feel satisfied with their harvest from that particular umbel.
It is common to see multiple foragers on a single umbel. Above we can clearly see a honeybee in the foreground, and a black solitary bee in the upper left (and in the photo below).
Many small solitary bees can be found on Daucus. While the honeybees may just be capitalizing on the great abundance of carrot flowers and perhaps a relative lack of another plentiful resource, small solitary bees are common and usual visitors of the tiny flowers. They often have short proboscises (the bee tongue) so the shallow, easily accessible florets of Daucus are just right for them.
|Ladybug and ants|
Wasps of all types are some of the most common visitors to the carrot flowers. Pompilid wasps are an interesting group of solitary wasps, chiefly because they hunt spiders. I once saw one drag away a wolf spider twice its size! The spiders, sometimes kept alive but paralyzed, are used to feed the wasp's young.
This wasp is an invasive species, known as European paper wasps. They build paper like nests in the eves of houses and within piles of rubbish. The nests have an open and visible cell structure, hexagonal paper cells facing the ground. The nests of paper wasps look similar to those of the native wasps, for instance yellowjackets (Vespula), except that the European paper wasp nests are open while nests of yellowjackets are closed with a single opening towards the bottom.
|Hornet (left) and yellowjacket (right)|
Daucus carota earns one of it's names, bird's nest, when it sets seed. The entire inflorescence curves in on itself, suggesting the shape of a bird's nest, as shown below. Seed is set, distributed by birds (I think) or mechanically, and the process starts anew.
I'll leave you with some questions: How much time shall pass before an ecosystem restores balance after the introduction of an alien species? It has happened before, animals, natural events (floods, wind, the ice ages, etc.), and even indigenous peoples around the world have contributed to the spread of plant species. When does "nonnative" become "native"? The questions aren't posed to defend the spread of nonnatives, but rather to contemplate the world around oneself. Peculiar, life.