Here in Idaho, we’re pretty lucky in that we don’t have to deal with too many poisonous creatures or plants. But hemlock persists. Also known as poison or wild hemlock, it’s an invasive species that loves wet areas, can be easily confused for other species, but is deadly enough in high doses to kill a human.
It’s hard to know whether, like ticks, poison hemlock is having a banner year. But several folks on Nextdoor have mentioned seeing it along the Greenbelt and been confused about how to get help. So here’s how to identify the poisonous plant and what to do with it.
Hemlock grows on stalks up to 12 feet tall. It’s part of the carrot and parsley family, so its leaves are somewhat fern-like, but really look like carrot tops. One important distinction from other species are purple or rusty reddish spots on the stems. Crowning the plant is an umbrella of small white blossoms.
Hemlock can look like a lot of other plants, so use the tell-tale sign of these purple splotches on the stem to distinguish them. (Ian Redding / Getty)
What to do if you see some:
- If it’s growing in your yard, uproot the plant while wearing gloves. The plant is most dangerous when ingested, but touching it can cause irritation and dermatitis. Don’t use a weed-whacker or cut it down — the toxins can be dispersed in the air that way.
- Properly dispose of the entire plant; don’t just let it lay there after you’ve pulled it.
- Make sure to keep pets, farm animals, and children away from the plant, as they could accidentally eat it.
- If you see it on public land like the Greenbelt or in parks, give the Idaho Noxious Weed Control Association a call or send them an email here. It could help to drop a pin on a map to let experts know exactly where it is.