Tumbling Carrots

Wild carrots are flowering at this time of the year, displaying their umbels of white flowers that waft in the wind.

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These umbels of flowers attract a range of insect species (click your mouse on the ones above to find them here: can an entomologist out there identify them, please?) and they have all evolved to be dependent on one another. One could not survive without the other, though details of their symbiotic relationships are not known. Pollination is the best-known service the insects provide but there are more bizarre interactions: food, hallucinogens, shelter.

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The umbels close, when they dry out after flowering, and form a ball up to 10cms in diameter. This breaks off and blows around in the dry landscape, a common sight on the phrygana of southern Europe.

But not half as common as the comparable tumbleweeds you may remember blowing down Main Street in the old  Westerns with Gary Cooper and John Wayne. They helped set a different kind of atmosphere to that enjoyed by the range of unnamed insects.

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The tumbleweeds are larger whole plants of dried-out Russian Thistle, Salsola tragus, originally imported to South Dakota from Odessa. These plants are of the Chenopodiaceae, in contrast to the Umbelliferae of Daucus carota.

[Tumbleweed picture by Tom Watts photochopz.com]

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