Botanical name: Conium maculatum
Common name: Poison Hemlock, Stink Flower, Badman’s Oatmeal, Curtains, Cartwheel, Devil’s Bread,
Best places to find: Woodland clearings, road sides, along watercourses, wasteland. Poison hemlock prefers damper soils.
Identification: A herbaceous plant growing to between 5-8 feet. It has a long, smooth stem that generally features red or purple streaks or dots on the lower half. The leaves are fine, triangular in shape and two to four pinnate. The flowers are small, white and delicate and have 5 petals. The flowers grow in loose clusters. Poison hemlock can be confused with wild carrot and wild fennel! However, wild carrot only grows to c. 2 foot in height and have “hairy stems that lack the purple blotches”.
Time of year: Grows most prolifically in Spring.
Point of interest: All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous. This means that ingestion, even of a small amount can result in a multitude of health problems, ranging from vomiting, paralysis and even respiratory failure! Many people will suffer severe irritation just from contact with the skin. Avoid at all costs. It was said that Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, took his life with a concoction made from predominantly, poison hemlock.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia, Creative Commons Redist and reconnectwithnature.org