Saturday, June 1, 2013

Poison Hemlock

Poison Hemlock: Evil Twin of Queen Anne's Lace

While I was looking up information about Queen Anne's Lace recently,
I ran across references to its "cousins":
parsnip, carrot, parsley, fennel, and dill.
But there was one more, not so much a cousin 
as a kind of evil twin: Poison Hemlock, conium maculatam.

This is Poison Hemlock:
Photo credit: Max Licher, 

This is Queen Anne's Lace:
File:Daucus carota Queen Anne's lace.jpg

Poison hemlock is found here in Virginia 
and in many other states in the U.S.--
usually along roadsides and in fields and meadows,
the same habitats as Queen Anne's Lace.
I don't recall ever seeing any poison hemlock while hiking,
but it's possible I overlooked them,
or mistook them for their more benign twin.

According to Virginia Tech
poison hemlock has purple-spotted and hairless stems.
The leaves of poison hemlock look like this:

These are the leaves of Queen Anne's Lace:
Leaf (Hannah Ramer. Brandeis University)

Many people like to "get back to nature"
and look for and eat wild edibles.
But ingesting all parts of the poison hemlock can be fatal,
so it pays to know the difference.
Sometimes beautiful plants are better appreciated from a distance. 

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