About the poison hemlock plant
Poison hemlock, fool’s parsley
Parsley (Apiaceae) Family
How to identify the poison hemlock plant
The poison hemlock plant (also known as Beaver Poison, Herb Bennet, Musquash Root, Poison Parsley, Spotted Corobane, and Spotted Hemlock) is a biennial herb that may grow to 2.5 meters (8 feet) high. The smooth, hollow green stem may or may not be purple or red striped or mottled. Its leaves are finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape, and grow up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) long by 40 centimeters (16 inches) wide. Its multiple, white, clustered flowers are small and grow in small groups that tend to form flat umbels. Its long, turniplike taproot is solid. When crushed, the leaves emit a rank, unpleasant odor compared to that of parsnips.
This plant is very poisonous, and even a very small amount may cause death. This plant is easy to confuse with wild carrot or Queen Anne’s lace, especially in its first stage of growth. Wild carrot or Queen Anne’s lace has hairy leaves and stems and smells like carrot. Poison hemlock does not.
Not that poison hemlock differs slightly from water hemlock, although both are very poisonous.
How to treat poison hemlock poisoning
The poison is a neurotoxin that disrupts the central nervous system. Ingestion in any amount can lead to respiratory collapse and death. Death can be prevented by artificial respiration until the effects of the toxic compounds have worn off 48-72 hours later.
The following steps can be taken to treat poison hemlock poisoning:
Call for emergency medical services: If someone is showing symptoms of poisoning, call for emergency medical services immediately. Poison hemlock can be fatal, and time is of the essence in treating this condition. The emergency medical services team will be able to administer the necessary treatment immediately and take the patient to the nearest hospital for further care.
Induce vomiting: If the poisoning victim is conscious and it has been less than an hour since ingestion, induce vomiting to remove the poison from the body. However, do not induce vomiting if the victim is unconscious or having seizures. The victim should be made to lean forward and given a glass of water to drink. The back of the throat can then be stimulated by either tickling the back of the throat with a finger or by using syrup of ipecac. This should be done under medical supervision only.
Administer activated charcoal: Activated charcoal can help prevent the absorption of poison in the body. This should be administered by a medical professional. The medical professional will give the victim a glass of water containing activated charcoal powder or tablets. The charcoal will bind with the poison in the stomach and prevent it from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
Provide supportive care: Poison hemlock poisoning can cause respiratory distress and seizures. Provide supportive care such as oxygen therapy, intravenous fluids, and anticonvulsant medication as needed. The medical professional will monitor the patient’s vital signs and administer the necessary treatment based on the severity of the symptoms.
Monitor vital signs: Poison hemlock poisoning can cause changes in vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. Monitor these closely and seek medical attention if there are any significant changes. The victim’s vital signs will be monitored continuously to ensure that the body is responding well to the treatment.
It is important to note that home remedies and over-the-counter medications should not be used to treat poison hemlock poisoning. Seek medical attention immediately if poisoning is suspected. Poison hemlock can be fatal and time is of the essence in treating this condition. The sooner the victim receives medical attention, the better the chances of a full recovery.
Habitat and distribution of poison hemlock
Poison hemlock grows in wet or moist poorly drained ground like swamps, wet meadows, stream banks, and ditches. It also appears on roadsides, edges of cultivated fields, and waste areas. Poison hemlock can also be found in wetlands, along riverbanks, and in other moist areas.
Native to Eurasia, it has been introduced to the United States and Canada. In North America, poison hemlock is most commonly found in the western part of the continent, although it can also be found in the eastern United States and Canada. It prefers to grow in areas with moist soil and full sun. Poison hemlock plants can grow up to 10 feet tall and have small white flowers that grow in clusters. The plant’s stem is green with purple spots, and it has a distinct musty odor.
Other uses for poison hemlock
Ancient civilizations used small amounts of Poison Hemlock for medicinal purposes. The practice was very dangerous though as even small amounts can kill a person. Uses for poison hemlock include:
Medicinal Properties for poison hemlock
Poison hemlock has been used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments such as respiratory problems, rheumatism, and epilepsy. It was also used as an anesthetic in ancient Greece. However, its use in medicine is highly controversial due to its high toxicity. Despite this, some modern-day herbalists still use it in small doses to treat certain conditions. Poison hemlock is a highly poisonous plant that has been used in various ways throughout history, aside from its toxic properties.
Using poison hemlock as an insecticide
The seeds of poison hemlock contain a chemical called coniine, which has insecticidal properties. It is used in some insecticides to control pests in gardens and agricultural fields. The plant’s toxicity makes it effective against insects, but it also poses a risk to non-target organisms and the environment.
Using poison hemlock as an ornamental plant
Despite its toxicity, poison hemlock is sometimes grown as an ornamental plant. Its delicate white flowers and fern-like leaves make it an attractive addition to gardens. However, it is important to note that handling the plant or its parts can be dangerous, and it should be kept away from children and pets.
Using poison hemlock for fodder
Poison hemlock is sometimes used as fodder for livestock, especially during times of food scarcity. However, it should be used with caution as it can be deadly if consumed in large amounts. The plant’s toxicity can also be passed on to the animals that eat it, making it a risky choice for livestock feed.
Using poison hemlock as a pesticide
Extracts from poison hemlock have been used as natural pesticides in the past. They are effective against a wide range of insects and pests. However, their use is not recommended due to the risks associated with the plant’s toxicity.
Famous cases of poisoning by poison hemlock
Famous Instances of Poison Hemlock Poisoning
The highly poisonous plant has been responsible for several famous poisoning cases throughout history. Here are some of the most notable instances:
The Greek philosopher Socrates was famously sentenced to death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock. He was accused of corrupting the youth and denying the gods, and his punishment was death by poisoning. This event has become one of the most famous instances of hemlock poisoning in history and has been widely studied and discussed by philosophers, historians, and scientists alike.
Another Greek philosopher, Phocion, was also executed by poison hemlock. He was accused of treason and sentenced to drink hemlock in 317 BC. Although not as well-known as Socrates’ death, Phocion’s execution is still considered an important historical event and has been the subject of many literary works.
The infamous Borgia family of Italy is said to have used poison hemlock to eliminate their enemies. They were known to be skilled poisoners and used hemlock as one of their preferred methods of assassination. The Borgias are known for their ruthless tactics and have been the subject of countless books, movies, and TV shows.
In 1955, Burton Abbott was convicted of killing his wife by poisoning her with hemlock. It was the first known case of hemlock poisoning in the United States. Abbott’s trial was widely covered by the media and sparked a national discussion about the use of poisons as weapons.
Poison hemlock picture identification guide
In-Article Image CreditsPoison hemlock plant (fool's parsley) Conium maculatum via Wikimedia Commons by Kenraiz Krzysztof Ziarnek with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 23, 2021
Poison hemlock plant (fool's parsley) Conium maculatum via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 3, 2012
Poison hemlock plant (fool's parsley) Conium maculatum rot via Wikimedia Commons by Magnefl with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 12, 2011
Poison hemlock plant (fool's parsley) leaves and stem via Wikimedia Commons by Magnefl with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 12, 2011
Poison hemlock plant (Conium maculatum) blooming in Pittsburgh via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 30, 2023
Tall Poison hemlock tree plant via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 30, 2023
Poison hemlock plant (back) and Tansy flowers (foreground) via Flickr by Matt Lavin with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 27, 2010
Tall Poison hemlock plants with flowers via Wikimedia Commons by Danny S. with usage type - Creative Commons License. July 19, 2020
Poison hemlock plant stem with blotted red spots via Tele Botanica by Francoise Caclin with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 31, 2014
Poison hemlock plant stem with red banding via Tele Botanica by John De Vos with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 10, 2014
Poison hemlock stem via Flickr by Mick Talbot with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 11, 2009
Poison hemlock plant stem and leaves closeup via Tele Botanica by Jean Francois Arnould with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 29, 2018
Poison hemlock white flowers clusters via Tele Botanica by Sylvain Piry with usage type - Creative Commons License. April 25, 2011
Poison hemlock flower closeup via Species ID by Wohlert Wohlers with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 4, 2010
Poison hemlock plant with stem, leaves, and white flower clusters via United States Department of Agriculture with usage type - Public Domain. February 3, 2005
Poison hemlock illustration artwork via Kohler Encyclopedia with usage type - Public Domain. Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanze
Poison hemlock tree in bloom via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain. July 9, 2005
Flowering Poison hemlock plant in thick grove via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. March 10, 2017
Closeup of Poison hemlock flowering in the Spring via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 16, 2016
Poison hemlock seeds via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Public Domain. September 7, 2008
Poison hemlock underside of leaves via Wikimedia Commons by Stefan Lefnaer with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 18, 2018
Poison hemlock flowers via Flickr by Mick Talbot with usage type - Creative Commons License. June 11, 2009
Featured Image CreditTall Poison hemlock tree plant via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. May 30, 2023