Friday, July 13, 2012

Officially In a Drought

Northern Illinois has been designated to be in a "moderate" drought. We are better than southern Illinois which is designated as being in a "severe" drought. It's been over a week since we had rain. There are rumors of rain the next two days but it is, at best, 30%. I don't think I'll put the windows on the Jeep. That certainly will help with the arrival of rain, right? Maybe, for good measure, I should wash the thing, too.

One of the interesting side effects of a drought is the arrival, in abundance of Daucus Carota.

You probably know this as Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot. It flourishes when the weather is dry. It's a biennial, meaning it blooms the second year after being just a plant the first year.

It's a non-native plant and was brought here by early settlers from Europe who sought to bring part of their lives to this new land. It can be an invasive weed, crowding out native plants and can be a scourge in prairie plantings as it's not picky about where it grows.

Some insects have taken to it, such as the caterpillar of the Eastern Swallowtail butterfly. Green lacewing wasps, one of the most beneficial wasps to have in your yard, love Queen Anne's Lace because it attracts aphids, a gardener's scourge. Having a small patch of the flower in your garden will attract the aphids to it and then attract the wasps who will chow down on the aphids and then go looking for more, thereby keeping natural pest control at work.

It's all over my yard now.

Opportunistic, I have it growing in the front, the back, the side yards and in the driveway. It requires absolutely no care and does provide a splash of color when everything else is dry and tan. My grandmother kept a patch by her tomato plants because she loved the look of it. I doubt that she knew it was helping her tomatoes by providing a location for beneficial insects to keep her plants pest free.

The domestic carrot is a descendant of Queen Anne's Lace. If ever I were to get really hungry and have absolutely no food, digging up the tallest plants, and they can grow to 4 feet tall, will give me a taproot that looks similar to a carrot.

Tapered and thin, it even smells like a carrot and can be sliced and cooked just like you'd cook a carrot. The leaves and flowers are toxic, however.

I'm going to leave them be unless they are some place, like the ones at the foot of the deck stairs, where they are inconvenient. What is flowering this year, won't be flowering next year. I don't have a reason for wanting them gone. When I had a garden, I pulled every one I could find because they could crowd out my plants. Now, they are a reminder of the beauty in weeds.

Beverage:  Earl Grey tea


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