Identify Water Hemlock Dropwort

HEMLOCK WATER DROPWORT / SPRING / SUMMER / AUTUMN / DEADLY

COMMON NAMES

Hemlock Water Dropwort

BOTANICAL NAME

Oenanthe Crocata

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Root –  Large carrot like tubers growing in bunches.

Stems – Hairless but grooved like celery, they have a hollow centre.      Leaves – Green shiny leaves, the leaf stem branches off in opposite pairs half way up the stem. Each branch looks like a mini version of the whole shoot, with a stem and leaf stems branching off in opposite pairs,  which are 2-4 times pinnate (splitting off in pairs of leaves or stems) the leaves are much more rounded than that of cow parsley or poison hemlock, but still has a toothed edge.

Flowers – Large umbles. The flowers grow from a central stem. The flowers grow in an umbel (this is part of the umbellifer group). There 12-20 thin stems growing from the top of the stem which at the top are 15+ more thin stems each with a single flower with 5 boomerang shaped leaves around a creamy off white centre and long white anthers with a black tip. If you turn the flower stem upside down the stems look like the spokes of an umbrella (umbrella-umbellifer is how I remember it).                                            Seeds – The seed heads are spiky clusters of small individually shaped teardrop and brownish black seeds.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom – Plantae

Order – Apilaes

Family – Apiaceae

Genus – Oenanthe

KNOWN HAZARDS

The whole plant is deadly toxic. The roots are the most deadly, containing a powerful neurotoxin called oenanthetoxin, which triggers spasmodic convulsions, usually followed by sudden death. This plant has caused more deaths in the uk than any other plant.

COULD BE CONFUSED WITH 

Celery, flat leaved parsley.

RANGE AND DISTRIBUTION

Europe, including Britain, though absent from the far north, to W. Asia.

HABITAT

Damp places, ditches, along rivers, canals and streams, surrounding ponds and lakes.

EDIBLE USES

This plant is deadly poisonous do not eat

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