I hadn't thought about cow doilies until I was riding by this beautiful meadow the other day. The meadow was lush with wild flowers sprinkled throughout the grasses. I spied the "cow doilies" and had to chuckle to my self. You see cow doilies are really Queen Anne's Lace.
Queen Anne's Lace is also called cow's parsley so perhaps that is where our name from it started.
We called them cow doilies and I don't think I knew the real name for them until I was in high school. I haven't thought of them as cow doilies in a long time, but when I saw that beautiful meadow the term just popped back into my head. We use to put the doilies in water that had a few drops of food coloring added. The flowers drew upon the water and became tinged with the food coloring.
The plant's name is said to derive from Queen Anne, ruler of England from 1702 to 1714. She is said to have challenged her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as that of the wild carrot. Some even claim that, as the queen embroidered, she pricked her finger and a drop of blood fell on the middle of her doily matching that royal purpleish-red spot in the middle of the flower.
If you read Wikipedia's description it states that the Queen Anne in question is not the one that first comes to mind. This Queen Anne was Anne of Denmark, James I of England's wife.
I've heard people describe the smell of this plant as a cross between honey and burning rubber. I've always thought it had a smell of honey and burning paper, but whatever.
I leave you with William Carlos Williams poem Queen Anne's Lace.
Queen Anne's Lace
Her body is not so white as
anemone petals nor so smooth - nor
so remote a thing. It is a field
of the wild carrot taking
the field by force; the grass
does not raise above it.
Here is no question of whiteness,
white as can be, with a purple mole
at the center of each flower.
Each flower is a hand's span
of her whiteness. Wherever
his hand has lain there is
a tiny purple blemish. Each part
is a blossom under his touch
to which the fibres of her being
stem one by one, each to its end,
until the whole field is a
white desire, empty, a single stem,
a cluster, flower by flower,
a pious wish to whiteness gone over--