Common Name: Water Hemlock
Scientific Name: Cicuta maculata
Habitat & Range: wet, sunny meadows, ditches, my garden
Bloom Time: summer and fall
About: Last week I mentioned that Queen Anne’s Lace was in the carrot family and the root was edible (as a coffee substitute). Water Hemlock is also in the carrot family. It looks very much like Queen Anne’s Lace and like Cow Parsnip (also edible). The taproots even smell like carrots. But DO NOT CONSUME any part of this plant in any fashion as it is Michigan’s most poisonous plant. Just a small amount will cause convulsions and then death. If you have children or pets and you see this in your yard, eradicate it. Pull plants up by the root and throw away. Don’t add them to your compost pile (I’m not sure anything bad would come of it, but better to be safe than sorry).
When we moved to our house, which has several wet spots, I saw quite a bit of this plant but thought I had successfully removed it. When we came home from two weeks’ vacation earlier this month, I found a couple lurking in my vegetable garden and near the driveway. Weeds always seem to find a way. I pulled them up before I thought about taking photos, so I borrowed a photo from my friend and butterfly/dragonfly photographer extraordinaire David Marvin.
I’m also going to direct you to this website for many detailed pictures of the plant so you know what’s what when you think you’ve encountered this plant. The telltale sign is the leaf, which has veins that end in the V of the serrated leaves rather than at the tips.
Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000