- Name also: Bird’s Nest, Bishop’s Lace, Queen Anne’s Lace
- Family: Carrot Family – Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
- Growing form: Biennial (sometimes annual) herb. Root thick, swollen and red-orange or thin and light-coloured.
- Height: 30–70 cm (12–30 in.). Stem furrowed, bristly-haired or hairless, solid.
- Flower: Corolla regular, (outer corollas often slightly zygomorphic and bigger), white–yellowish–reddish (corollas in the middle often darker than outer ones), 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in.) wide, petals 5, deeply notched. Sepals 5, small–missing. Pistil of 2 fused carpels, styles 2. Stamens 5. Inflorescence a compound umbel, often concave, umbel stalks close together in bud and after flowering. Bracts of primary umbels long, pinnately lobed, also secondary umbels with bracteoles.
- Leaves: Alternate, stalked. Blade ovate, 2–3 times pinnate. Leaflets lobed, lobes linear–narrowly elliptic, brightly–greyish green, soft-haired.
- Fruit: Oval, flattened from the sides, 2–4 mm (0.08–0.16 in.) long two-parted schizocarp, covered with hooked bristles.
- Habitat: Surroundings of habitation, gardens, waste disposal sites, waste lands, railway stations, wayside, harbours.
- Flowering time: June–August.
Carrot is a very diverse species: in Europe there are 12 subspecies, one of which is the cultivated carrot (ssp. sativus). It resembles the wild subspecies, weed carrot (ssp. carota), which can be found along with the edible carrot occasionally in Finnish nature, e.g. originated as a companion of hay seeds. Natural carrots resemble edible carrots, but are usually annual and their white main root is of modest size. In a vegetable patch, carrots bloom only rarely, but in nature during flowering time they are revealed as very typical umbellifers. Among the flowers, right in the middle, there is often one (or even several) strange-looking dark red flower, bigger than its neighbours. This flower probably attracts with its colour blue bottle flies to pollinate the plant. The carrot fruits have long, hooked bristles which help the spreading of the plant, since they stick to the fur of animals. The infructescence closes in humid weather, in which way carrots differ from our other umbellifers.
When it grows biennially, carrot stores nourishment for the production of flowers and seeds during its first growing season. In a vegetable patch, carrot is grown as an annual plant, and the root, which contains plenty of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, is picked in the first autumn as food. The nutritious roots of carrots were probably part of man’s diet already in prehistoric times, in the time of hunting and gathering, before agriculture. The development as a cultured vegetable probably started in the Middle East, the birthplace of agriculture. At the beginning, blue-red and yellow types predominated; the better known orange carrot varieties of today were probably developed in the Netherlands in the 17th and 18th century. Among the many carrot varieties, the best known – apart from the well known longish varieties – are probably the radish-like short, small carrot varieties. Carrot is one of the highest yielding cultured plants and can produce enormous crops if grown in suitably humus-rich sandy soil. Nowadays carrots are grown almost all over the world, from the tropics to cold climates.