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

Plants for a Shady Woodland in MA
June 09, 2013 - Hello, I am looking for natives to plant in full shade or part shade. My house is in the mountain woodland area of Mt. Washington, MA. I am looking for grasses, flowers and shrubs. Also I am looking f...
view the full question and answer

Native plants of Taos and Los Alamos NM from Houston
April 07, 2012 - Hi, Mr. Smarty Plants, can you recommend a guidebook for the native plants of the Taos/Los Alamos region? (I'm most interested in forbs.) I'll be headed there in May--is there anything I should es...
view the full question and answer

Where and when bloom; will they bloom in artificial light
November 06, 2005 - Do wildflowers grow through out the world, even in desert and Arctic regions? When do they bloom? Will they bloom in artificial light? What is the most interesting fact about wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Flowering annuals for Dallas TX
March 26, 2009 - 1. What Non-wildflower flowers (flowers that WILL bloom first year/within first 2-3 months after plant seeds)are recommended for Dallas, TX area that could tolerate part-shade, part-sun area? 2. What...
view the full question and answer

Revegetation of school site with meadow plants from Austin
December 23, 2013 - We are revegetating a hill country school site (typical calciferous soil stripped of vegetation & minimal topsoil) with a native seed mix equal to Native American Seed "Meadow Mix". We have an abund...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center