Watch out for poison hemlock

Poison hemlock can be identified by spotted, purple markings on its stalks. The plants resemble wild carrot, also called Queen Anne’s Lace, and can kill humans, livestock and wildlife if ingested. Photos by Kelle Sunter

By Stefanie Donahue

A local gardener is warning residents to be on the lookout for poison hemlock, a toxic plant that grows locally.

Considered a noxious weed, poison hemlock bares a strong resemblance to wild carrot (which also goes by the name Queen Anne’s Lace) and can kill humans, livestock and wildlife if ingested.

A member of the parsley family, poison hemlock grows umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers and has hairless, hollow stalks that are spotted with purple markings. It grows throughout the U.S. along fences, ditches and in other moist areas.

In the spring of 2017, local gardener and Blaine Community Orchards for Resources and Education board member Kelle Sunter found the plant growing at the Blaine Community Garden on 7th street.

“Everyone from the garden has been on the lookout for poison hemlock since that first discovery,” she said.

Later in the summer, Sunter also discovered a large patch of poison hemlock in the alley behind 5th and 6th streets in Blaine.

“That patch was removed, but there are several plants growing in private yards that should be removed for the safety of your children and pets,” she advised.

Poison hemlock leaves are most poisonous in the spring when the plant flowers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It’s especially poisonous when ingested, but can also be toxic to the skin and respiratory system.

Symptoms of poisoning typically present themselves 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion and can include pupil dilation, dizziness, trembling, slowed heartbeat and
paralysis.

“Removal of this noxious weed should be done carefully as it can affect skin and breathing,” Sunter said.

The Whatcom County Noxious Weed Board recommends removing small stands of poison hemlock by hand with gloves and protective clothing.

Dig up the plant, including its long taproot, and dispose of it responsibly to ensure seeds don’t land back in the soil to germinate. Herbicides can also be used to control the plant.

To learn more about controlling poison hemlock, visit bit.ly/2OAcVXL.

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