Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
Queen Anne’s Lace is a summer wild flower. She grows along the sides of highways, roads, bike trails. She grows up embankments, in fields and vacant lots. She seems particularly comfortable growing where the earth has been disturbed or affected by people, and the soil is not very rich.
Queen Anne’s Lace often grows in large wide communities of plants. She often has companion flowers nearby: Madia, Chicory and Wild Sweet Pear are three, also thistle.
Queen Anne’s Lace grows throughout the United States. She does well in muggy wet summers in New England, and also in the dry summers of California.
Queen Anne’s Lace can grow quite tall 6-7 feet and a given plant can stretch out her stems to a width of 5-6 feet. Her height and width does indeed vary. She seems to enjoy full sun, but also thrives under some shade.
Honey bees, bumble bees and lots of insects visit her and enjoy hiding or sitting with her abundant flowers, and feeding at her. Lady bugs and ants visit her as well.
Queen Anne’s Lace is in the same family as the carrot, and her root smells just like a carrot. When rubbed between fingers, her leaves smell of parsley.
One unique quality of hers is that on one plant there will be a simultaneous array of stages of blossoming; from buds, to wide open flat flower, to umbrella shaped flowers, to flowers closing up and making a tight nest-like shape where seeds are forming.
When her blossoms are just beginning to open, they may have a pale pink tinge. Not all of the blossoms, but most of the blossoms, have at the center of the flower face, a tiny flower of dark purple, light purple or pink. It is a feature that has fascinated me since childhood. Apparently this flower is infertile.
Her wide white flowers are actually a collection of many flowers, each growing on a stem that radiates out in a starburst pattern.
Some Queen Anne’s Lace flowers are fragrant, delicate and sweet; yet the fragrance is totally absent in some flowers.
A big Queen Anne’s Lace flower face can be wider across than my stretched wide hand — 8-9 inches. There is a beautiful form repeated in Queen Anne’s Lace; a flower grows off the main stem and this gesture is found again within each flower, which is a group of flowers growing off little stems, and then tiny flowers growing off tinier stems…
Each little floret repeats the same gesture as the large flower taken as a whole. The micro flowers reflect the macro flower gesture.
The flowers which grow on the longest stems, and which are at the periphery of a large flower face, grow longer petals; as if they feel they have space to reach out into the space around them. These larger petals at the periphery enhance the impression of lace.
The leaves have an open and airy gesture, as does the entire plant; except for the root which is dense and woody. There is a lot of stem between leaves and the entire stem is covered in tiny white hairs.
The leaves grow smaller at the base of the stem, larger at mid-stem; up near the flower, the leaves contract and have barely any stem. It is a challenge to pick a flower of Queen Anne’s Lace by hand. Even though the plant gives an airy impression, structurally there is a great deal of strength and toughness. I advise using a clipper to pick a flower of Queen Anne’s Lace.
The structural gesture of Queen Anne’s Lace is beautiful. Wherever the leaf grows off the stem, there is a density, a thickening, like a knobby joint of the stem. Up the stem, above the first lowest leaves, wherever a leaf grows out, the leaf forms a trough near the main stem and the flower stem grows up between the main stem and the leaf stem.
The whole plant grows and reaches in a multitudinal direction (multidirectional). The stems geometrically reach out into various planes where a joint thickens the stem.
The bracts (green leafy parts just under the flower face) have the same gesture and form as the leaves on the stem closest to the flower. Tiny green sepals are found under the tiny flowers on their tiny stems.
So much mirroring of form and gesture getting smaller and smaller, yet holding the same form, gives one the impression of infinity.
There is such variety in the center flower found in the flower face. Some have fully formed four tiny pink flowers on one stem, some have no center flower, some center flowers are deep purple, almost black, but they look closed or unformed.
On a large flower face there are about 100 flower stems all radiating from the center of the stem above the bracts. Each of the 100 flower stems has about 40 tiny flower stems, each hold its own tiny flower. So the Queen Anne’s Lace flower is actually a community of 100’s of flowers.
During the heat of the day, there was so much insect activity above and around and on the flowers, I think the abundance of insects invited swallows to come and feed. There was a buzz and hum of bird and insect activity all around, on and above the Queen Anne’s Lace.
In the bright sunshine, the white flowers were radiant, glowing white. In the shaded areas the whole plant took on a green aura. Under 10x magnification, it is thrilling to see that the flowers look like a swarm of bees with white petal wings and their tiny stigmas as antennae.
Imaginative Perception Exercise
As Rudolf Steiner suggests, in the plant world, the physical and etheric forms are visible and present here on earth, while the astral aspect and egohood of the plants dwell peripherally, in the invisible world, the spiritual world.
I imagine the archetype of the Umbelliferae family as being the Egohood of that family. Steiner describes that in the Spiritual World before birth and after death, we are in relationship with the Archetypes of minerals, plants and animals, and also the Archetype of Mankind. How remarkable!
Here is my imagination of the Archetype of the Umbelliferae Family:
She is a living Queen wearing a starry gown that has patterns in constant movement; intricate geometric rays that extend from large to small to smaller to smallest and back again, in an unending progression of growth and interrelationship, akin to the dendritic patterns within the human nervous system.
Her colors of face, hair, gown, aura are predominantly radiant white, with blushes of pink, light green, light yellow…punctuated by the mysterious presence of deep purple in an unpredictable pattern that offers life, touched by deep purple moments of infertility.
This Queen is a formidable force. She intends her power to be used in service of all creation. Her beloved companions from the animal kingdom, know, respect and honor her.
She wishes to be known by human beings and so she appears in great flower communities wherever human community abounds. She accompanies human communities throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Her physical needs are minimal; she thrives in harsh dry infertile conditions.
Her earthly flowers nod and wave with the slightest breeze. Air is where her strength, grace and power abound. Of course, she holds a scepter, made from a dry wild hemlock stem, that is so airy and hollow, and branches with such grace and geometry. Her scepter holds within its form a musicality that is intricate and reveals the occult geometry within all creation.
Her flower family is of such service, yet she offers her gifts in humility, to whomever, among animals and mankind, is wise enough to recognize her.
She is a great Angelic Queen and her angel servants are found in the flower faces of her radiant umbels, nodding in the breeze, a companion alongside human beings.
Her promise is to offer a map of paths that lead us from every angle of her raying umbels to points, connected and interconnected, throughout the created material and spiritual worlds.
This Archetypal Flower Queen has a mysterious power over water, such that she can use it and apparently control it. She hovers above water and maintains her beauty and fecundity, without being in need of water.
Water appears minimal in her expression; she utilizes it so well, that she appears to barely need any.
This Flower Queen offers sacred geometry, interconnectedness, pathways to use in our approach toward the infinite; and the same pathways lead back to the exquisite structure of her reassuringly commonplace presence in our lives in the airy warmth of summertime, here on earth, in the Northern Hemisphere.
She is a radiant white Queen of mystery in service to us all.
Some say Queen Anne’s Lace was named for Anne, Mother of Mary, Grandmother of Jesus. Others say that she was growing in the royal gardens when Queen Anne became bride to James I. Queen Anne was an accomplished lace maker. She challenged her ladies-in-waiting to a contest, to see who could make lace as beautiful as the flower. The Queen won the contest and the flower won her name.
Queen Anne’s Lace is a biennial, but can form a rosette and bloom in the same season if nutrients and conditions are ideal. But often the Queen will grow a rosette in her first year, overwinter, then grow stem and flowers in the second summer.1
The Umbelliferae Family
There are wonderful words that describe this plant family: umbellifer, umbel, umbrella shaped, compound inflorescence, small umbels growing from the end of a ray of the primary umbel, bracts…
The Umbelliferae resemble each other closely, but mistaken identification is unwise since there are poisonous members of the family (poison hemlock, fool’s parsley, cowbane). As a structure, or type, the umbel stands between inflorescence and blossom.
Many culinary herbs belong to the Umbelliferae family—parsley, dill, caraway, chervil, fennel, aniseed, lovage and coriander. And much fine eating is derived from this family: carrots and parsnips give us their large tap roots, celery, its stems and leaves and celeriac its globe-like root.
The Umbelliferous plants do not have seductive scents or colors; their flowers are predominantly white, greenish yellow, light yellow or pink tones. They never have strong, dark or bright colors.
In the Umbelliferae family, the flowering impulse appears checked or held back; leaves, roots and seeds have strong aroma, rising from essential oils. But the scent is not on the surface and must be crushed or chewed to be experienced.
The oil glands are not on the outer skin, as in the Labiate Family, but the astral forces are active in the vegetative part of the plant.
The poisonous ones have an astrality taken in so deeply and dammed up with the plant. The distance separating spices and poisons in plants is not great. Only a few seeds of archangelic, caraway or fennel, prove fatal to force-fed sparrows.
In the Umbelliferae family, there are hardly any woody plants, which is rather surprising considering that they can grow as tall as small trees. Not even the 100 year old Antarctic Azorellas are woody, though their “cushions” are so tight and tough that a revolver bullet ricochets off them!
There are no Umbels in tropical lowlands or rainforests, and only a few in tropical mountains. But, they abound in the dry Northern Hemisphere; Air is their Element.2
The Umbelliferae are plants of the Airy Element. There are 2,600 different species of Umbels; they take the form of herbs, shrubs, but never trees. In the leaf, air and water interact to produce substances: light and dark, light ether, chemical ether, are all in interplay.
Above the leaves, the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers form and float like a cloud of starts; the principle of radiance is at work throughout.
Queen Anne’s Lace decisively rises into light, air, warmth, severing herself from the watery element. During the ripening process, the Queen Anne’s Lace dries completely. The seeds are hard, dry and prickly. After the seen ripening process is complete, the root and leaves harden, lignify and dry up.
The Queen incorporates air into herself, in hollow stems, in air chambers in rhizomes and in so doing, goes beyond plant, toward animal.
Generally, only ensouled creatures properly have inner air and warmth processes. Only they have organs for respiration and blood activity. The astral is needed to give shape to the gaseous airy element and the “I” or ego manages warmth processes. The soul principle (astral) and the “I” nature are not part of the physical plant, but remain in the cosmic periphery. The Umbelliferae desire to take hold of the enveloping astral sphere and they make an internal astral organization based on the airy principle. The Umbels are “aired through” from top to bottom and they draw air and warmth into themselves to an unusual degree.
Contact between the etheric organization of the plant and its enveloping astral sphere takes place in the flowering region. This takes expression as color and scent of flowers, nectar, and warmth in oils, waxes, spices and warmth saturated substances.
In Queen Anne’s Lace the following processes of light, air and warmth develop earlier, so that air and water weave within the leafy region and even penetrates into the root.
So much of its nature has been appropriated to lower regions that the Umbelliferae family has less extravagant flowers and color; form and scent remain subdued.
Being a summer flowering plant, light, air and warmth are drawn down into the lower regions of the Umbelliferae family of plants.
In the Umbelliferae family, a quality that in other plants flows out toward the astral periphery as fragrance and oils, is held fast in the fluid etheric sphere. The enveloping astral sphere intervenes powerfully in a plant’s life process, as the potential to produce poisonous substances.
Vegetable poisons are species specific. The carrot family can be expected to include poisonous plants—water dropwort, water hemlock, and true hemlock—because of the deep intervention of the astral region.
As a medicinal plant, the Umbelliferae are remarkably active in the health of the glandular system. Glands are part of the fluid organism. The interaction of ether and astral body in glands is very similar to processes seen in plants. The form principles of glands show all kinds of branching and division, similar to the morphology of the carrot family.
The umbels help where the astral intervenes in the fluid organism. They promote elimination, as a diuretic, sudorific (inducing sweat) and in cases of dropsy (edema), also expectoration.
“The same principle which gives the animal its astral body, making it a sentient creature, makes a plant poisonous when it enters into it.”
As well as the capacity to develop poisonous members, the Umbelliferae family gave us the carrot, which Steiner describes as the perfect food for human beings. The seasonings obtained from this plant family are stimulants that encourage the astral forces to become more involved in digestion.
“Light can only be perceived by the mind and Spirit—we never see light as such—we see only illuminated bodies. Colors, on the other hand, can be perceived with our senses.”4
Ancient Greeks and Romans relied on plants for purposes of birth control. Queen Anne’s Lace was ingested for contraception and to induce miscarriage. Hippocrates advised the use of Queen Anne’s Lace for such purposes.
Caterpillars of some swallowtail butterflies usually feed on Queen Anne’s Lace, and other members of the Umbelliferae family. Swallowtail butterflies concentrate the furocoumarin molecules made by plants in the parsley family, such as Queen Anne’s Lace and celery. These molecules contain substances that are toxic in the presence of light. There is a memorable warning in the coloration of the swallowtail butterfly associated with the toxicity that the larvae acquire after feeding on Queen Anne’s Lace, and parsley. Birds heed this warning and reject these butterflies as prey.5
I stand in awe of Creation and her mysteries and intricacies. I also stand in awe of what I do not know and have yet not eyes to see.
1 A Guide to Enjoying Wild Flowers by Donald and Lillian Stokes
Theresa Roach Melia is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Sebastopol, California. She is a student of Anthroposophy, and is involved with Christian Community. She enjoys reading poetry. She reports, "I have been making and using flower remedies for years for myself and for the past couple of years for my kindergarten children and other children at our school (with parental permission). I have used essences for myself for nearly seven years; with children about three years. I consider flowers to be a profound and beautiful link between the etheric world and the astral world. Flowers have star imprints that bless us with pure messages to the soul."
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