Though tame rabbits might prefer carrots, the wild ones in my yard leave the wild carrots alone. Instead, these snowshoe hares prefer eating dandelions and plantains throughout the spring and summer months.
Although there is a great diversity of plants for the hares to choose from, they repeatedly eat the same ‘weeds.’ During the winter months, I often see them sitting up on their back legs eating from the low branches of young balsam fir trees.
One of the plants that I’ve never seen the rabbits eat is the Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as wild carrot. This plant is in the same Parsley family (Umbelliferae) as the carrots whose orange colored roots we eat. The plants in this family have compound umbels, tiny umbrella-shaped clusters radiating from a central point. Their flower stalks are usually hollow.
There is such variety among wild carrot plants that it’s very difficult to tell the difference between them. The Daucus carota growing in my yard, shown above, has elongated green stalks covered with fine hairs, while the marsh growing species shown below, which I’ve yet been able to identify, has reddish stalks. Their leaves are also different, but since the flowers are so similar, it might be easy to mistake one type for the other, especially if they’re not growing side by side.
Discerning one species from another becomes even more difficult when plants are found growing in the wild intermingled with other varieties, as shown below. Water hemlock, which also has similar flowers, is the most poisonous plant in North America. It’s so toxic that children have died just from drinking liquids through the plant’s hollow stalks. Although some of the species in this family are edible, such as wild fennel, I don’t think I’d be brave enough to eat any of them. Dandelions and plantains seem like a safer choice and come highly recommended by the local rabbits.