En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - May 06, 2014

From: Comox, BC
Region: Select Region
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Wildflowers
Title: Is Fern-like Plant with White Flower Poison Hemlock?
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a fern-like plant which produces white flowers that uncurl from the stem as the plant starts to grow. Is this poison hemlock?

ANSWER:

Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is not a North American native plant (it is from Europe, North Africa and West Asia) but is a very noxious plant found naturalized along many roadsides or open fields in Asia, North America, Australia and New Zealand. It is not related to the native tree called hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Poison hemlock is a member of the parsley family and has similarities to Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota) and American wild carrot (Daucus pusillus). It can grow very tall (to 8 ft) - especially if moist. The plant has hollow stocks with large umbel-shaped flower clusters. Poison hemlock flowers in late spring (while wild carrot blooms later in summer).  Poison hemlock is toxic to animals and humans with symptoms appearing within three hours of ingestion. All parts are poisonous (even the brown, dead stems for years afterward). Avoid eating the plant or getting the plant sap on your skin. Symptoms are serious and sometimes deadly. Immediate medical attention should be given as the poison is fast acting. Approach it with extreme caution.

To see pictures of the plant at different life stages of poison hemlock visit the King County Noxious Weeds webpage for Poison-Hemlock. There are many look alikes including giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum), purple-stemmed angelica (Angelica atropurpurea), spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata), and wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). A good reference to see the various similar looking plants is Giant Hogweed and Look-a-Likes.

 

From the Image Gallery


Purplestem angelica
Angelica atropurpurea

Common cowparsnip
Heracleum maximum

Common cowparsnip
Heracleum maximum

Common cowparsnip
Heracleum maximum

American wild carrot
Daucus pusillus

American wild carrot
Daucus pusillus

American wild carrot
Daucus pusillus

More Wildflowers Questions

Native Plants for a water collection pit in Bronson, FL
August 22, 2013 - I live near Gainesville, FL in a low rural area with many cypress swamps around & bought this 5 acres 2 years ago. About 15 years ago a pit was dug on my 5 acres to give the rainwater somewhere to go...
view the full question and answer

Forecast for 2008 Spring wildflower season
February 18, 2008 - Has there been a forecast made for this spring's bluebonnet and wildflower season?
view the full question and answer

Native Annual Plant Substitute for Impatiens
May 11, 2013 - What can be used as an annual flowering plant to substitute for the diseased impatiens? Is Vinca one you would suggest?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on mowing schedules
September 23, 2004 - What would be the ideal mowing schedule to allow for a spring and summer bloom of wildflowers? My neighborhood maintains it's own roadsides and has the opportunity to increase the number of wildflowe...
view the full question and answer

What happened to the bluebonnets?
June 09, 2008 - I was wondering if you could tell me why there weren't any bluebonnets out this year? I live in the Hill Country and drive to Austin everyday. I look forward to seeing the bluebonnets up and down the...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center