Wild carrots to be found all over the country
Wild Carrots are in full flower at present and will continue to bloom until the end of August or early September. The flowerhead is dull white in colour, often with a pinkish tinge and/or with a red or purple flower in the very centre. It is often strongly domed and umbrella-like as in the image above. As the flowers mature the dome flattens out like a mushroom and as the flowers go over and the seeds set the flat head curls up and folds into a tangled cup like a bird's nest.
Wild Carrot is a lime lover and is a common and widespread plant found all over Ireland and while it has a number of lookalikes the species is immediately recognisable when crushed because of its pungent carroty smell.
Carrots are biennials, that is, they take two years to complete their life cycle. In their first year they grow vigorously but do not flower or fruit. Flowering and fruiting are reserved for the second and final year of their lives. But, to make it to their second year they face the problem of surviving the intervening winter.
To protect its soft body from winter frosts the carrot uses its root as an overwintering storage organ. As autumn approaches the plant sends all of its energy down underground into its root.
Its shoot dies down and the rotting remains form a cushion of mulch over the root below providing further protection from frosts.
The following spring the underground storage organ bursts into life producing a carrot that goes on to flower and fruit before autumn arrives.
When our early ancestors, armed with digging sticks, were foraging in the wild for food they found these nutritious underground storage organs and discovered that they were good to eat when they were young. As they got older they became tough, woody and unpalatable.
A carrot with a fat coloured root was discovered in western Asia and over a long number of years, plant breeders succeeded in selecting individuals to produce bigger and sweeter roots resulting in the popular vegetable that we enjoy eating today.
Three carrots, variously interpreted as varieties or subspecies, are found in Ireland. Two of them - Wild Carrot and Sea Carrot - have white roots that do not swell in the first year and are regarded as natives. The other one - Edible Carrot - has the very familiar swollen orange roots and is regarded an alien introduction, a throw-out of garden origin.