Poison Hemlock

Beware of this Poisonous Plant

poison hemlockThis spring you may have noticed this bushy plant, with fern-like leaves and pretty, white flowers growing in the ditch.  Some people have asked what this plant is because they would like it as a flower. This weed is poison hemlock. The plant is common along roadsides, in ditches, waste areas, pastures, in wet areas and fencerows. All parts are poisonous and contain the toxic alkaloid, coniine and others.  This spring, southeast Nebraska has been inundated by this poisonous weed.  Poison Hemlock is around every year, but this year we have had perfect growing conditions for this plant.  It is a biennial plant and comes up in the fall as a rosette.  It is sometimes confused with the plant Queen Anne’s lace or wild carrot which shows up along the roadside and in pastures later this summer.  Poison hemlock’s stem is hairless and has purple spots on it, while Queen Anne’s lace has a hairy stem.  The leaves of poison hemlock are not hairy, while the underside of the leaves of Queen Anne’s lace have hairs.  There have been reports of cattle poisonings in a pasture from poison hemlock.  Livestock generally do not eat this plant, but if they are hungry and there is no other forage to eat, they will eat it.  Also if it is cut and allowed to dry down, cattle may be more apt to eat it.  The canes of the plant have been found to be toxic after it dies for a long time.

The plant is common along roadsides, in ditches, waste areas, pastures, in wet areas and fencerows. All parts are poisonous and contain the toxic alkaloid, coniine and others.  The plant is most poisonous if it is ingested.  The best time to control this weed is when it is in the rosette stage, in the fall or early spring.  It can be controlled with pesticides including 2,4,-D & Dicamba and Grazon P+D.  Do not harvest and bale hay with poison hemlock in it! This plant has always been around and we have not had issues with it, just be aware of it. If you have questions call Gary Lesoing at (402) 274-4755.