Daucus carota is a biennial plant. In the first year, its rosette of leaves produces large amounts of sugars, which are stored in the taproot to provide energy for the plant to flower in the second year. Soon after germination, carrot seedlings show a distinct demarcation between taproot and stem: the stem is thicker and lacks lateral roots. At the upper end of the stem is the seed leaf. The first true leaf appears about 10–15 days after germination. Subsequent leaves are alternate (with a single leaf attached to a node), spirally arranged, and pinnately compound, with leaf bases sheathing the stem. As the plant grows, the bases of the seed leaves, near the taproot, are pushed apart. The stem, located just above the ground, is compressed and the internodes are not distinct. When the seed stalk elongates for flowering, the tip of the stem narrows and becomes pointed, and the stem extends upward to become a highly branched inflorescence up to 60–200 cm (20–80 in) tall. Most of the taproot consists of a pulpy outer cortex (phloem) and an inner core (xylem). High-quality carrots have a large proportion of cortex compared to core. Although a completely xylem-free carrot is not possible, some cultivars have small and deeply pigmented cores; the taproot can appear to lack a core when the colour of the cortex and core are similar in intensity. Taproots are typically long and conical, although cylindrical and nearly-spherical cultivars are available. The root diameter can range from 1 cm (3⁄8 in) to as much as 10 cm (4 in) at the widest part. The root length ranges from 5 to 50 cm (2 to 20 in), although most are between 10 and 25 cm (4 and 10 in).
It can be invasive in North America and Ireland.