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Daucus v. Cicuta July 8, 2010

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, macro photos.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

That would be Daucus carota,  or wild carrot, compared to Cicuta virosa, commonly referred to as poison hemlock.

Yeah, that Socrates stuff.

They’re very similar looking plants on the outside, but that’s where the similarity ends.

In fact one, “wild Carrot,” also known as Queen Anne’s Lace, has a tap root which is edible and delicious.  Unfortunately for many people each year, poison hemlock has a similar tap root containing a respiratory depressant, a paralytic in fact, which results in the deaths of its hapless ingesters by suffocation as their diaphragms stops doing their jobs.

Fortunately, Wild Carrot has a calling card which helps to safely identify it: a tiny red flower in the middle of its white umbel:

This one is a typical dark blood-red, and the young umbel is still in-curled; when fully open it will present a broad dome of complex white flower clusters, something like this:

…but this last shot is conspicuously lacking a central red blossom; in fact, it’s a Cicuta,  or poison hemlock.  They’re similar enough that one need stop the car and get out to ascertain their identities.

One thing they seem to have in common is that they’re nearly all inhabited by tiny tenants.  Perhaps it’s because so many, many flowers are arrayed in this particular geometry, all facing the same way, all within lazy walking distance of each other, so that one need not even raise a wing to get from here to there, but at any rate, they’re a favorite of pollinators, like this quarter-inch long wasp:

And, you know, where the sheep graze, wolves will congregate:

I think this half-inch spider’s gonna trump that quarter-inch wasp.

But hey, I’m just a dumb human, so what do I know?


1. jomegat - July 9, 2010

As soon as I read about the wasp, I began to wonder if you were going to have a crab spider too. And yes, you did! I think this one is Misumena vatia. I am all the time finding them on umbels, be they carrot, hemlock, or yarrow. The amazing thing about them is that they can change color like a chameleon to match their stalking grounds. The range doesn’t seem to be very great – yellow to white – and it takes them a while to do it, but it’s still pretty impressive. Check this one out I saw this spring: http://jomegat.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/weird-styles/

2. littlebangtheory - July 9, 2010

jomegat, thanks for identifying the little beastie for me; I usually do my blog stuff at the end of my waking day and, to my shame, don’t always research the things I post. I just push the shutter release, hope it comes out interesting, and slap it into the ‘sphere.

Nice shot at your place, BTW!

3. pagan sphinx - July 10, 2010

Love the spider.

4. kkryno - July 11, 2010

I have a great amount of catching up to do! We have been busy with House guests and I haven’t really been able to stop by and chek on you for a while.

As always, your shots are georgeous!

Have a wounderful week, Ralph.

5. littlebangtheory - July 11, 2010

I will and have, Vikki. Spent today with my younger daughter, visiting from Boston, and it was perfect – hot sun, cool breeze and flowing water, punctuated with kids having an impossible amount of fun.

I hope things are going well up your way!

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