Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for American Wild Carrot - Daucus pusillus   Michaux
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Section 6 » Order Apiales » Family Apiaceae
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AuthorMichaux
DistributionScattered over parts of the Coastal Plain, but most prevalent in the central portions, for some odd reason -- as opposed to expected collections from many more southerly counties, including the Sandhills. A few records for the eastern and southern Piedmont. There is a possibility that this species is not native as far north as NC, as the distribution of records (as mentioned above) is disturbing, and nearly all collections are in rather weedy places and counties without natural sandy soil habitats, as opposed to more obvious sandhills counties from Moore and Richmond southeast to Columbus and Bladen counties. For now, based on breaks in the range map, the website editors are considering records from the southernmost counties as "natural occurrence" and all others as "uncertain provenance".

This is a Southern species, ranging barely to southeastern VA (where considered non-native), and south to central FL, and west to CA. It also ranges north into central TN and to MO.
AbundanceStrongly declining, as the latest SERNEC record with a date is 1967; most records are from the 1950s. Hardly anyone seems to have seen it in recent decades, and it is clearly very rare to rare today; the NCNHP's State Rank of S4 is clearly too liberal today. The website editors, with a suggestion/recommendation from A. Weakley (2020) are proposing a current State Rank of S1S2 (but S1? might also be proper); the website editors propose a Watch List status, as W5 -- "Rare because of Severe Decline to Population or Habitat". Habitat does not seem to be limiting, but the populations have crashed, for unknown reasons.
HabitatThis is a ruderal species of roadsides, fields, pastures, and waste places. Most sites are in sandy soil -- in fact, no specimen label indicates its presence in natural sandhills habitats.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits in May and June.
IdentificationThis is a rather slender species that might be passed over as a smaller version of the abundant exotic Queen-Anne's-lace (D. carota). It grows to about 1.5-2' tall, usually unbranched. The scattered stem leaves -- about 4" long -- are generally ovate in shape, highly dissected twice, into lacy, fern-like segments, with the smallest segements barely 1/10" wide. The terminal umbel, and any side umbels, are flat-topped, with numerous rays, creating an umbel only about 2-2.5" across, noticeably smaller than that of D. carota, which has umbels about 4-5" across and often domed. Also, photos show large leaf-like bracts extending beyond the umbel. In the exotic species, the central flower in each umbel may be dark red to maroon, whereas as in the native species this flower and all others are white. (Some populations of D. carota lack such maroon central flowers, so absence of such flowers is not a useful character.) Also, the longest rays in an umbel in the exotic species are generally more than 3 cm long, whereas D. pusillus has rays shorter than 3 cm. No large bracts appear below the umbel. It is not clear if biologists 1) are searching but simply are no longer finding much of this species in recent decades, 2) are finding it in numbers but not collecting it anymore, or 3) are simply not paying attention to any Daucus for the reason that it is probably "just" the exotic species.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Rattlesnake-weed
State RankS4 [S1S2]
Global RankG5
State Status[W5]
US Status
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