Carum carvi (Caraway)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial
  • Weedy
Habitat:sun; disturbed soil, abandoned fields, roadsides, waste areas
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:1 to 4 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: UPL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Several flat clusters (umbels) 1 to 2½ inches across, made up of of 3 to 10 smaller clusters (umbellets), each with up to 20 1/8-inch white to pinkish flowers. Individual flowers have 5 petals, notched at the tip, 5 stamens and a creamy white center.

[photo of bracts] Up to 4 short, thread like bracts may (or not) be present where the main umbel attaches to the stem, and none are present at the base of the umbellets. The umbellet and flower stalks are all rather unequal in length.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, compound, lance-oblong in outline, 2 to 3 times dissected into slender thread-like segments ¼ inch or less in length. Basal and lower leaves are long stalked.

[photo of leaf stalk] Stem leaves are sheath-like where the stalk joins the stem, with a pair of small leaf-like appendages at the base of the stalk. Upper leaves are reduced in size. Stems are usually single, rarely up to 8, hairless and glossy, branched in the upper plant.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of fruit] Fruits are elliptic, slightly flattened, between 1/10 and ¼ inch long and 1/3 as wide, with prominent length-wise ridges when mature. It splits into 2 oblong to crescent shaped seeds.


Like many members of the carrot family, Carum carvi or Caraway has spicy flavored foliage and fruits and was introduced into North America as a cooking herb. Its first year root is also edible and can be prepared like carrots or parsnip. Unfortunately most of these non-natives are prolific seed producers and can take advantage of human disturbances in the landscape to become invasive, most notably Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) a.k.a. Queen Anne's lace, and Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).

While still not as prevalent in Minnesota as these two, Caraway has been widely collected in Minnesota but looks very similar to and may get lost in the sea of Queen Anne's Lace spreading across the state. To differentiate the two: Queen Anne's Lace petals are not notched, it has large showy bracts at the base of its main umbel, its stems are hairy, its leaf segments more toothed than linear and its fruits have bristly hairs along the ribs. Also similar is Japanese Hedge-parsley (Torilis japonica), which has stiff hairs pressed close to the stem, leaves more fern-like with broader divisions, and hooked hairs on its fruit.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook and St. Louis counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Marisa - Lake County
on: 2017-06-21 09:43:47

Saw a patch of these along a roadside.

Posted by: Nancy Braker - Rice County
on: 2018-06-08 12:16:36

This plant is growing along the west side of Hwy 246 just west of Nerstrand and on the north side of the road on the way to Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

Posted by: Jane Jewett - Aitkin County
on: 2024-06-11 20:23:36

My daughter found a small patch of caraway in a pasture on our farm, 10 miles north of Palisade along the Great River Road.

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