onthresholds_Queen Anne's laceIMG_3014

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)

“It is a very pretty chandelier of a flower fit to adorn the forest floor…The common carrot by the roadside, Daucus carota, is in some respects an interesting plant—for its umbel as Bigelow says is shaped like a bird’s nest, and its large pinnatifid involucre interlacing by its fine segments resembles a fanciful ladies’ workbasket.”

                              ~ from The Journal of Henry David Thoreau (July 3, 1852)

(note: Thoreau was studying botany and keeping an herbarium at this time. Jacob Bigelow was a botanist whose manual on wildflowers in Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau used to identify plants. I’ve included the definition of the botanical terms he uses below, but what I find most fascinating is how he artfully combines the scientific and the literary in his everyday observations.)

botanical terms:

umbel: a convex, rounded, or flat-topped inflorescence in which the individual flower stalks rise from the same point.

pinnatifid: a compound leaf with leaflets arranged on each side of a common axis with clefts reaching halfway or more to the midrib.

involucre: a structure that surrounds or supports another, usually a head of flowers.

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