Poison hemlock is also called the Conium maculatum, and it is toxic to livestock and humans, so keeping away from plants that look like poison hemlock makes sense.
However, while these other plants may seem to poison hemlock, some are commonly mistaken.
In this guide, we will list all these similar plants and their difference so that you know which ones are innocent so that you can just let them be and look out for the real deal.
List of Plants Resembling Poison Hemlock
1. Queen Anne’s Lace
This plant is commonly mistaken for poison hemlock. However, there are several variations to take into account. The first is general size, as Queen Anne’s lace only reaches a height of two to three feet tall. While the stems and leaves of poison hemlock are smooth, those of Queen Anne’s lace are hairy.
The Queen has hairy legs is one way to remember it quickly. This beautiful plant would be able to produce blooms have a flatter shape and flower later in the summer. The middle of them is usually a solitary dark purple or crimson blossom.
At the base of the blooms, Queen Anne’s lace also has three-pronged bracts, and the older flowers curl up into a bird’s nest form. In dry fields, ditches by the side of the road, and open spaces, Queen Anne’s lace, Daucus carota which is the Family Apiaceae, is a typical sight.
The flower’s similarity to the lace that was popular around the time of the British King, wife of King James I, and the fact that 18th-century English courtiers used the flowers as “living lace.”
The legend is that Queen Anne challenged her ladies-in-waiting to a competition to see who could make a piece of lace as pretty as the flower; these are a few explanations for the origin of this common name.
The daisy family includes Achillea millefolium or yarrow, as it is most widely known. Wild yarrow has flowers ranging from white to delicate yellow. The therapeutic benefit of wild yarrow is that it is most frequently foraged and gathered. According to an old myth, during the fight with Troy, Achilles employed yarrow poultices to stop the bleeding of men who had been wounded.
Like wild carrots, wild yarrow often thrives in dry soil and prefers full sun. The medicinal weeds often reach heights of one to three feet.
In most growing locations, wild yarrow blooms from the last weeks of spring to the middle of fall. In contrast to poison hemlock and wild carrots, yarrow stems are relatively smooth, free of refined white hair, and devoid of purple blotches.
Although this plant’s leaves resemble fern or feathers in some ways, they are not stiffer than those of the poisonous weed. Some characteristics may confuse when you need to identify poison hemlock and yarrow, but the differences are clear.
On the other hand, a wild yarrow plant thrives and starts producing some crushed blossoms, and on top of this, the leaves will smell spicy but pleasantly, which is why many people have compared yarrow’s aroma to that.
The main distinction between the two plants is that yarrow has considerably shorter leaves than poison hemlock, which has leaves that resemble feathers.
Some people become lost while looking for English daisies while foraging for yarrow, wild carrots, or trying to escape deadly hemlock. From a distance, English daisies could appear to mimic the poisonous weed, but their stalks and leaves are pretty distinct.
The center of every English daisy flower is a bright yellow dot. The tiny daisies, which favor full sun and dry soil like wild carrots and yarrow, are frequently seen in pastures and along the side of the road.
|Size||One to two feet|
|Poisonous||Not Poisonous to humans|
3. Water Hemlock
The most severely poisonous plant in North America is the water hemlock. However, only a minimal amount is required for humans or livestock to get poisoned by the plant’s deadly chemical.
Cicutoxin is a dangerous convulsant that acts directly on the central nervous system. When a threshold dose is achieved, grand mal seizures and death happen when clinical signs of poisoning appear.
Small, white flowers of water hemlock are borne in bunches that resemble umbrellas. The leaf’s side veins do not lead to the outer margin’s points but to notches. The water hemlock’s broad rootstalk is filled with several tiny compartments.
However, a deadly brown or straw-colored liquid is produced when the stem is damaged or sliced. Large, fleshy tubers and thin, individual roots emerge from the base of the root stalk.
Water hemlock flourishes in streams, pastures, and moist seepage zones of meadows. It rises between 19 to 40 inches. It belongs to the family of carrot perennials. Small, white flowers of water hemlock are borne in umbrella-like clusters.
Due to their similar names, water and poison hemlock might be mistaken for one another, although they are two different plants that result in various poisonings. It can also cause confusion in poison hemlock identification.
It has also been mistaken for other herbs, medicinal plants, and wild parsnips. Contact a poison control center and seek emergency medical care as soon as possible in situations of water hemlock poisoning in people. Severe convulsions and seizures by poisoning must be treated to maintain normal circulatory and respiratory processes.
4. Giant Hogweed
Cow parsley’s close relative, giant hogweed which is also known as the Heracleum mantegazzianum, is native to Southern Russia and Georgia. Its height can exceed 10 feet tall.
Even though this remarkable plant has the potential to be appealing in some circumstances, and its sap may severely burn the flesh, most gardeners will want to get rid of it because it is possibly invasive.
In addition, it is commonly found in the wild and presents a significant risk to those ignorant of its potential for harm.
Giant hogweed is invasive and could be dangerous, despite being an impressive look when fully grown. Chemicals in the sap can result in photodermatitis, also known as photosensitivity. Making the skin extremely sensitive to sunlight and can leave scars that last a lifetime, in addition to blistering and pigmentation.
Heracleum mantegazzianum is the common name for the vast hogweeds. While this is one of the species, research by the RHS and other botanists reveals that there are up to four other huge hogweeds in Britain, some of which are biennial and others perennial.
However, all of these tested positive for high quantities of furanocoumarins, which make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and cause burning. As a result, they all represent a risk to the general public’s health.
Heracleum mantegazzianum, often known as giant hogweed, is a tall, cow parsley-like plant with thick, bristly stems with an abundance of purple spots. The blooms are white and held in umbels, flat-topped clusters resembling cow parsley or carrots.
Each umbel has flowers pointing upward. The size of the flower heads can reach about two feet. It can grow as tall as 11.5 feet in addition to growing as wide as one to and between 3.5 to almost seven tall.
|Similarity||Blooms are white and have a similar formation of flowers|
|Size||More than 10 feet|
The herb Osha root, or Ligusticum porteri, belongs to the Apiaceae/Umbelliferae family, which also includes parsley and carrots. There are 12 different species of Ligusticum in North America. L. porteri is regarded as the “genuine” OSHA among these.
Osha is widespread in the Rocky Mountain Colorado Columbine and Aspen Bluehills’ ravines and forest edges. The plant has a maximum height of three feet.
Osha is a remedy for several upper respiratory ailments in traditional Native American and Hispanic medicine.
The extract is now frequently employed as a decongestant. Others think it strengthens the immune system.
The roots of Osha and hemlock can tell the two plants apart. Although these characteristics vary, poison hemlock roots are typically smooth and purple without any traces of the leaf base.
Water hemlock roots are believed to be purplish, fibrous, squishy, and have a parsnip-like fragrance. Moreover, it is a ligusticum with a celery-like aroma and root crowns with basal leaves.
|Similarity||Similar structure of the upper plant|
6. Wild Fennel
One of the most plentiful wild foods is wild fennel; a non-native, invasive plant one can feel comfortable using.
Since wild fennel can’t tolerate the cold winters in the Midwest, the California coast is where one can view it, but after witnessing firsthand how invasive the plant is, it’s okay to only see it sometimes.
Fennel is an old plant with a long history of use as food, regardless of whether you view it as a poisonous weed or a food source.
You owe it to yourself to try cooking the plant if you can access it and enjoy foraging. To identify poison hemlock from wild fennel, look at the details like spots and flowering. While the plant does look similar, it is anything but.
Most chefs discard the bulb fennel’s greens in the compost or add them to soup stock which is another wasteful practice, yet the wild fronds and all of the young green stems are delicious to eat.
Although it takes some time to warm up to them, the taste is unmistakable, and they are a fantastic plant to keep; they require a little more cooking than most wild plants that one would encountered. Wild fennel greens are a well-known edible in the Mediterranean region, with Greece, Crete, and Italy all having a long tradition of eating them.
|Similarity||Aroma may seem similar|
The elder tree’s blossom is known as an elderflower. The flower extract is used to create medication.
There is not enough scientific data to support elderflowers’ use to treat illnesses. These include the common cold, influenza, swelling of the sinuses, and nasal cavity which is the rhinosinusitis. Or any of the other diseases for which it is traditionally used.
Elder flower is used as a flavor in both food and drink. The extracts are utilized in the production of perfumes. When used in the amount seen in food, elderflower is likely safe.
When used in tiny doses as part of a blended product containing sorrel, gentian root, verbena, and cowslip flower, elder flower is possibly safe for most people.
According to the available data, a flower can only be safely used in large doses for medical purposes if included in a combination product. The combined effect may occasionally result in allergic skin reactions and an unsettled stomach.
When taken excessively, elderflower is possibly safe. A cyanide-producing substance in some elderflower plant sections has been linked to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This chemical is removed during cooking. The safety of putting elderflowers straight to the skin needs to be better understood.
|Size||Five to 12 feet|
8. Wild Parsnips
The biennial or the perennial herb known as wild parsnip scientifically known as the Pastinaca sativa is indigenous to Eurasia.
In truth, wild parsnip is a member of the Apiaceae which is the Umbelliferae family, which also contains carrots, celery, parsley, parsnip, angelica, and Queen Anne’s lace, the majority of which are aromatic plants with hollow stems.
It resembles farmed parsnip in appearance and scent. Most cultivators would see it to be an escaped parsnip plant from an earlier planting. In an average year, the plant can typically reach four feet.
Wild parsnip is widespread in the North of the United States and South of Canada. Its distribution extends south to Louisiana and north to California, but it is not in Hawaii, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, or Florida.
A herbaceous plant, wild parsnip can reach heights of four to five feet. It can live in various environmental conditions, including wet meadows and dry soil. Rich, calcareous, alkaline, moist soils are optimal for growing it.
It frequently grows along roadway edges, in pastures, in deserted fields, or where the ground has been disturbed, and the native vegetation has not yet had a chance to take root properly. Even though the lateral roots occasionally emerge from the central tap root, the seeds are typically smooth and cylindrical.
Seedlings appear between February and April, develop rosettes in their first year, and continue to grow vegetative for one or more years before producing an aerial shoot sometimes, and it is referred to as a “bolt” as its flowers’ features.
A rosette of broad, hairless, ovate, compound pinnate leaves up to six inches long, terminating in numerous pairs of leaflets with saw-toothed margins, can be produced by wild parsnip.
These leaves can reach a maximum length of 16 inches. Along the stem, leaflets have groups in pairs. Upper leaves lack limbs, whereas lower leaves have short branches.
Cowbane is any of several toxic plants, including the seven species of Oxypolis of the Apiaceae parsley family, particularly harmful to calves. The plants are widespread in North America and grow in marshes.
They have bracts surrounding clusters of white blooms which have significantly modified leaves. The species known as water-dropwort, O. rigidior, is the most prevalent. Numerous species of Cicuta also go by the name cowbane.
Wet prairies, mesic prairies, and calcareous spring marshes—three natural groups historically prevalent in the Shenandoah Valley—are protected by the Cowbane Prairie NAP on the western side of the Blue Ridge in the Shenandoah Valley. Over time, the growth of agriculture and industry has diminished these settlements.
The refuge is home to eleven unusual plants, including marsh-speedwell, blue flag iris, and queen-of-the-prairie which is scientifically known as the Filipendula Rubra. Two freshwater mussel species designated as threatened or endangered also have a habitat within reach of the South River that is part of Cowbane Prairie NAP.
|Similarity||Clusters of white blooms|
|Size||Three to six feet|
Pignut, a small umbellifer (part of the carrot family), is widespread in open forests, hedgerows, and dry grassland. It has fine leaves and delicate stems. Tiny umbels (clusters resembling umbrellas) of white flowers bloom between May and June. These umbels appeal to various insects, including army beetles and hoverflies.
Pignut is a small, open umbellifer with delicate, branched stems, finely split leaves, and small, white flowers.
Pignuts have dark brown, 15-20 cm long tubers (roots) that are edible and have a flavor that is somewhat akin to hazelnuts.
Kids used to enjoy digging for these “nuts” as a hobby. If you decide to try it, keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a natural plant completely, so just pick what you need and leave some for the wildlife. Also, avoid eating anything you are unsure of because it can make you ill.
|Similarity||The shape of the flowers and stems|
|Size||Can reach up to 120 feet in a forest|
11. Ground Elder
Ground elder was likely brought to the UK from continental Europe during the Roman era for culinary and medicinal herb usage. However, it quickly became a destructive weed in gardens, shady spots, and cultivated grounds.
Remember that when you are growing this plant, it is a perennial, which would mean that it does not wither in the winter and spreads primarily by rhizomes, though it does produce seeds.
As a result, it can cover a large area and outcompete other plants for resources in a short period. Little umbels do in fact cluster resembling umbrellas with their white flowers that would bloom between June and August. These umbels are attracted to a variety of insects.
At the base of its stems, ground-elder has leaves with three lobes that resemble a pointed clover leaf. In addition, it features tiny, white flower clusters that resemble spherical umbrellas. The colloquial moniker “Devil’s guts” refers to the ground-notoriously elder’s deep-dwelling and difficult-to-remove roots.
There can be many plants that look like poison hemlock that many people may avoid and not avail the benefits they reap.
Therefore, to get the best out of those plants, here are the following distinguishing characteristics:
- Look at the umbel style of the similar-looking plants, which is almost always the distinguishing characteristic.
- The stems are another tell-tale sign, which is smooth in the case of poison hemlock and never hairy.
- Poison hemlock can grow near marshy areas.
Equipped with these details, anyone mistaking any similar-looking plant for poison hemlock can now make a calculated decision. Happy reaping!