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

Best time for wildflower planting in the Ozarks
April 13, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Ozarks, and have an open bottomland valley area I want to transform into more natives for many reasons. I am starting a 2 acre field of NATIVE grasses (warm sea...
view the full question and answer

Source for dotted blue-eyed grass from Saluda SC
February 23, 2013 - I lived in Texas for several years and now live on acreage in South Carolina. I have heard that bluebonnets don't grow well in South Carolina. However, there is a place by the road near our house t...
view the full question and answer

Laws concerning picking wildflowers in Pennsylvania
May 20, 2008 - What is the law (in Pennsylvania or Federal law) that makes it illegal to pick wildflowers and/or other native plants?
view the full question and answer

Autumn flowering Texas wildflowers
May 07, 2008 - Where might I get a list of autumn flowering Texas wildflowers?
view the full question and answer

Possibility of survival of Genus Castilleja in Wisconsin
April 04, 2005 - In traveling through Texas last week we noticed many many little orange flowers which are absolutely fascinating. I found a picture of that flower in your website for Wildflower Days 2005 in the to...
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