Monday, August 1, 2011

Queen Anne's Lace

Donald A. Windsor

Many umbels of Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) have a maroon central floret.  Legend has it that when Queen Anne was tatting her lace, she pricked her regal finger and a drop of royal blood forever stained her eponymous lace.

Cute story, but the biological reason for that maroon floret has often puzzled me.  It does not seem to be genetic, because umbels on different stems from the same root may or may not have maroon florets. 

On Sunday 24 July 2011, I noticed an umbel with two maroon florets.  As I bent over to get a closer look, one flew away.  "Aha!", I exclaimed, in a Eureka moment.  Perhaps the maroon floret is a decoy for attracting pollinators.

The two photos below are of 2 separate umbels on two different plants.

Do those umbels without maroon florets attract these flies?  Sure, but I did not conduct a statistical study.  Do umbels with maroon florets produce more seeds?  Do the pollinators differ throughout the day?  These types of questions require a serious scientific study, which I do not have time to do.  Nevertheless, I will look at Queen Anne's Lace in a whole different way from now on.