The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is warning residents about the dangers of poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), a toxic member of the carrot family. Residents should be on the lookout for the weed, not ingest any parts of the plant, and take extra precautions when handling it.
Poison hemlock can grow up to eight feet tall. The flowers are small and white with umbrella shaped clusters on the tops of stems, and it is currently in bloom in parts of the state. The stems are hairless and have purple blotches. The plants emit an odor. The flowers of poison hemlock look similar to wild carrot (Daucus carota) and water hemlock (Circuta maculata). However, the fern-like leaves and purple blotches on the stems of poison hemlock distinguish it from these related species.
All parts of poison hemlock (leaves, stem, flowers, and roots) are poisonous. If a person may have ingested poison hemlock, Minnesota Poison Control should be called immediately at 1-800-222-1222. If the individual is unresponsive or having trouble breathing, call 911. People have also reportedly been poisoned by handling the plants. A person should avoid exposure by wearing a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and gloves. If a livestock animal may have ingested poison hemlock, contact your local veterinarian.
The weed has been recorded in isolated pockets of Minnesota, most recently in the southeastern part of the state. It appears to be spreading quickly in the St. Charles and Lanesboro areas. However, poison hemlock may be growing elsewhere in Minnesota. If residents suspect they have found poison hemlock, take a picture of the plant and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, or they should contact their local University of Minnesota Extension office.
More information and photos of poison hemlock can be found on the MDA website.
Margaret Hart, MDA Communications