One of my favorite wildflowers is Queen Anne’s Lace (a.k.a. Wild Carrot and Bird's Nest). And one of my favorite things to do each year with Queen Anne’s Lace is to dye it, dry it and place it in a dried floral arrangement or use it in craft projects.
Queen Anne's Lace can also be used as a teaching tool. If you have kids, dying Queen Anne’s Lace would be a fun summer science activity. With this simple kitchen science and STEM experiment, kids will magically see and learn how plants drink water. Scroll to the end of this article for the Kids Flower Science Project.
For more fun gardening crafts and ideas, visit our Gardening and Foraging page.
Learn how to dye Queen Anne's Lace flowerheads by watching this video or keep reading this post for a photo tutorial with step-by-step instructions.
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HOW TO IDENTIFY QUEEN Anne's Lace
The Queen Anne's Lace plant grows about four foot tall along roadsides, in vacant lots, in fields and meadows, and I actually allow it to grow in my flower garden. WHY? Queen Anne's Lace acts as a host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly. It can be considered an invasive weed but I consider it an attractive addition to my butterfly garden. To control the spread, I give it adequate space and deadhead flowers before the seeds have a chance to scatter and pull out when necessary.
The plant has a lacy flowerhead of flattened clusters of tiny white flowers with a single purplish/reddish floret in the center, most of the time. They bloom from May to October. The stiff, solid stem is hairy.
HOW TO DYE QUEEN Anne's LACE
WHAT YOU NEED:
- Queen Anne's Lace
- Vase, Jars or Cups
- Food Coloring
Harvest Queen Anne’s Lace flowers by using a scissor to cut the stems. The shorter the stem the quicker the flowers will dye.
Fill one or more glasses halfway full of water and squirt 10 to 30 drops of food coloring into the water. The more food coloring you use the darker and quicker the flowerhead will change.
Cut the flower stems diagonally.
Place the stems in the vase making sure no leaves are in the water.
Watch the flowers change colors. Check the flowers every couple of hours and observe any changes. After 12 hours the flowers should be more colorful. After 24 hours every more vibrant.
This year I wanted to dye the Queen's Anne's Lace orange and yellow to use in an autumn craft. Here is a photo series of the flowers changing colors:
6 HOURS LATER
The flowers in the orange dye show a slight change in color.
The bunch of flowers in the yellow food coloring dye has changed quite a bit already.
24 HOURS LATER
The flowers are orange.
Yellow is even brighter.
AFTER A FEW DAYS
The Queen Anne's Lace bouquet is a vibrant autumn color.
Now I can enjoy it as a floral arrangement or dry it to use in a craft project.
If you don't want to dye the Queen Anne's Lace, you can enjoy their summer beauty by just placing them in a vase with water. However, to keep the flowers fresh and absorbing water, snip off a small piece of stem every two to three days.
Why do the Queen Anne's Lace flowers change color?
Most plants drink water from the ground through their roots. In this flower dying experiment, the colored water travels up the stem, via the Xylem, to the leaves and flowerhead through tiny tubes in the plant by a process called capillary action. This is similar to drinking through a straw. The water on the leaves and flower petals evaporates which is a process called transpiration. The colored dye is brought up with the water but doesn’t evaporate and stays to color the flower.
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KIDS FLOWER SCIENCE PROJECT
(Observe, record predictions and results. Take pictures.)
Start by filling four glasses halfway with water and add 10 - 30 drops of food coloring. Stir vigorously.
Cut the Queen Anne’s lace flower stems short and diagonally to aid water absorption. For this kid’s experiment, cut the stems short so the water will travel up the stems quicker.
Place the flowers in the colored water. Have the child observe the flowers immediately after putting them in the dyed water and have them draw or take a picture.
Now it time to sit down, relax and have a discussion on how plants and flowers drink water.
How does your child think it happens? If necessary, lead the discussion in the proper direction. For small children, make the explanation simple. For older children, use some of the scientific terms. Ask the child what they think will happen to the flower in the colored water over time.
Read them a book on how plants grow. A few book recommendations are at the end of this article.
After a few hours, have the child check on the flowers. Do they see any change? Record the results and take a picture.
Check again after 12 hours, 24 hours and 48 hours.
Some other ideas for flower dying experiments?
- What happens if you use longer or shorter stems?
- Does one color come through faster than another color?
- What if you use a different white flower such as carnations, daisies, chrysanthemums or roses.
- Split the stem vertically and place each half in different colors of water. What happens?
- Show them how to mix primary colors together to make other colors.
GARDEN & CRAFTING IDEAS
Crepe Myrle - The dried seed pods and branches are an excellent resource of free craft material.
Geranium Propagation - Never buy geraniums again! Learn how to start geraniums from cuttings.
Birdbath Planter - Don't throw away a cracked birdbath or a birdbath that does not hold water. Learn how to make it into an attractive birdbath planter.