Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
The wild form of this plant, which is native to Eurasia, has plain white flowers and is commonly called Queen Anne’s lace. The flat clusters of tiny white blooms do look very much like lace but those of the cultivar ‘Dara’ open up in a deep red color and then slowly fade to pink and, occasionally, white.
This red coloration is the result of a genetic mistake. The wild form almost always has a single red flower at the very center of the cluster and, in the case of this cultivar, the coloration message seems to have made its way to all the flowers.
Legend has it that the central red flower is the stain of a drop of Queen Anne’s blood from pricking a finger with her lace-making needle.
Another name for the plant is wild carrot, because it is, indeed, the parent species of the familiar root vegetable (Daucus carota subsp. sativa). Queen Anne’s lace/wild carrot should not be eaten, however, since it contains properties similar to those found in the related poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).
Find it this summer in the Wild Garden and other locations around the garden. It’s on the right in this first of these two shots taken in the Wild Garden, and in the left foreground in the second shot.