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

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Friday - July 25, 2008

From: Comanche, OK
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Plant called cow shade or cow weed that is poisonous
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

There is a plant called cow shade or cow weed, not exactly sure. It kills whitetail deer. I would like to know the name of the plant and the specifics. If you could help me it would be greatly appreciated. These plants grow in Oklahoma. thank you.

ANSWER:

I think you must mean Cicuta maculata (spotted water hemlock or cowbane). This is listed as one of the most toxic plants in the US. Its root resembles a parsnip and humans have died after eating only a few bites of the root. It is native to Oklahoma and here are more photos and information. Two other plants with this common name, Oxypolis rigidior (stiff cowbane) and Oxypolis filiformis (water cowbane), resemble Cicuta maculata but are not poisonous.

 


Cicuta maculata

Cicuta maculata

Cicuta maculata
 

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