Similar to : A great many other umbellifers, apart from certain unique characteristics itemised below.
Many similarities to: Sea Carrot, but that is stouter and stockier, usually with an umbel that is almost globed, where the bracts under the umbel are wider, the fruits do not curl up into a ball but are flat instead, has darker-green leaves and only grows near the sea.
Wild Carrot is split into three sub-species:
Only the last,
- Wild Carrot (Daucus carota subsp. carota). Root not swollen
- Sea Carrot (Daucus carota subsp. gummifer) umbels not contracted in fruit. Root not swollen. Grows near the coast in the South and South-west on the mainland Britain, and on the coast of SE Ireland.
Carrot (Daucus carota subsp. sativus) Intrd-natd, garden origin. Root swollen (the carrot)
Carrot, has roots which swell in the first year called carrots. It is cultivated in gardens, allotments and grown as a crop plant by farmers on the Sefton Coast and inland in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. Eaten by people and rabbits.
Wild Carrot and all its sub-species are distinguished from other Umbellifers by their unique tri-forked or pinnate bracts around each umbel of umbels.
Some similarities to : the rare
Bladder-seed (Physospermum cornubiense) which has similarly shaped leaves, but they are of a lighter green.
In the very centre of the umbel of flowers lies a single but small pink or red flower (not always present) set amongst all the white ones (but Sea Carrot also has this feature). However, the red flower at the centre may not be exclusively indicative of Carrot; some other umbellifers may have one such as
Distinguishing Feature : Once the flower umbel has flowered, the whole umbel curves upwards and inwards upon itself into a tight ball of stems and fruits. Sea Carrot does not do this.
When the flower umbel first opens, the flowers are pink, but gradually turn white as the flower matures apart from one or two in the very centre which turn a darker shade more like that of claret wine. The remaining red one(s) are thought to help attract insects to aid pollination. The leaves smell pungent when crushed.
Although the outer petals of the outer flowers in the umbel have larger petals, so too do a number of other umbellifers, so this feature alone is in-sufficient for identification.
The roots, just like garden carrots, are rich in carotene and vitamin-C but are not orange-coloured, they are white. Cultivated carrots were originally as purple as beetroot, but those were bred out in favour of orange carrots, but other colours are nowadays making a come-back.
Carotene, an orange dye, can be obtained from the roots. Carotene is present in, and responsible for, the colour of a number of other vegetables, including tomatoes and beetroot, but in the case of the latter two, is not the only dye present, and in the case of Beetroot is not even the dominant dye. Carotene comes in two main forms, β-carotene and α-carotene, although other forms exist. It is a good anti-oxidant.
Carotene has an important role in photosynthesis.
Vitamin A, Retinal, is also produced within the roots of carrots, being half of carotene, but with a terminal hydroxyl group.
POLYACETYLENES IN CARROT
A neurotoxic polyacetylene called
Carotatoxin is found in Wild Carrot at a concentration of 2mg/kg weight, and is similar to other polyacetylenes Cicutoxin and
Oenthotoxin which also have 17 carbon atoms and which are found in some other Umbellifers (Apiaceae). It is also to be found in cultivated carrots, but is not normally a problem for consumers (and in any case, it is likely that the amount of polyacetylenes in cultivated carrots has been bred to be lower than that found in Wild Carrot. It has been demonstrated that the polyacetylenes present contribute to the bitter taste of carrots.
Besides Carotatoxin, four other polyacetylenes occur widely in Apiaceae and Araliaceae species; being Falcarindiol,
AcetylFalcarindiol Falcarinol, and Falcarinolone, all of which are present in Carrots (and Wild Carrot), although the Falcarinolone may be present only as an artefact derived from the auto-oxidation of Falcarindiol.
Carotol is an aromatic sesquiterpene alcohol present in the seeds of Carrot at about 40% - 50% concentration. Within the seeds it may be involved as an anti-fungal, herbicidal and insecticidal agent. It consists of two fused rings, one 5-membered, the other 7-membered, with several side groups and an -OH moiety.
Myristicin, a phenylpropanoid, is also present in Carrots,
Dill but occurs in much larger amounts in
Nutmeg. It is a naturally occurring insecticide and aracicide and also has anti-cholinergic effects discernible when raw Nutmeg is eaten and is the chemical responsible for the toxic properties of Nutmeg. It is chemically similar to Dillapiole which is found in
Dill and Fennel.