Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

An Unsuspecting Danger Along the Trail

Poison Hemlock is a deadly plant that grows around water sources.  It’s a killer.

Poison Hemlock is a plant that I have never paid much attention to.  It didn’t rank very high on my “need to know” list.  Recently, a seminar speaker discussed poison hemlock and its effects.  That caused me do a bit of investigation in my home state of Oregon.

Figure 1 Photo from

What I found out surprised me.  An invasive plant, Poison Hemlock is widespread throughout Oregon.  It can be found along streams, in pastures and irrigation canals.  Several deaths of livestock and people are attributed to this plant each year (check the Oregon web site for more information.)

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s web site states:

Juice from the poison hemlock taproot and its crown are extremely poisonous….. It has also accidentally poisoned many who have mistaken it for parsley. Poison hemlock is considered to be one of the most poisonous plants in North America, and is often mistaken for water-parsnip or other edible members of this family.”


Figure 2 Photo by Bonnie Rasmussen, Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

My other online resource (Encyclopedia Britannica) for further states:

 The toxic alkaloid coniine, present throughout the plant, causes paralysis, loss of speech and depressed respiratory function with eventual asphyxia if gone untreated. Surprisingly, the mind remains unaffected until death.”

My recommendation:  Keep your hands off don’t touch it at all.  Don’t let anyone in your party put any part of poison hemlock in their mouth (as a young boy would put a piece of straw in his mouth.)
The attached video (below) is from the University of Wisconsin.  It gets a bit technical but it does a wonderful job of identifying this toxic plant.

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