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, take extra precautions when handling it and not ingest any parts of the plant.
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 an animal may have ingested poison hemlock, contact your local veterinarian. Purple blotches on the stems of poison hemlock distinguish it from wild carrot and wild parsnip.
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 e-mail it to email@example.com, or they should contact their local University of Minnesota Extension office. Locally, call (507) 637-4025. More about poison hemlock can be found on the MDA Web site at www.mda.state.mn.us.
Photo Courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture