Spring has been cool and wet across most of Montana and while we’re certainly grateful for the rainfall, I know a lot of people are a little nervous about warmer temperatures and outdoor recreation. As we begin to get out into the mountains, hills, and open spaces of Big Sky Country this season, here’s your friendly reminder to stay as far away from poison hemlock as possible. It’s a nasty plant, and it can be found throughout the state. I’m sure he probably loves all the rain we’ve had this spring.
He killed Socrates.
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) also goes by the names Devil’s Bread, Carrot Fern, Devil’s Porridge, Poison Parsley, Spotted Corobane, and Spotted Hemlock, according to the Montana Field Guide. Shakespeare included hemlock in the ingredient list of the witch’s brew in Hamlet, and the Greek philosopher Socrates was forced to drink a poisonous mixture of hemlock.
The highly poisonous plant can be found throughout the state.
Montana State University provides a comprehensive PDF guide on how to identify the plant, which is commonly found in moist, disturbed soils along streams, ditches, cool open slopes, plains and valleys. So… practically anywhere. I’m pretty sure there’s a large chunk of it growing within a quarter mile of my house. I don’t plan on getting close enough to check.
Don’t even touch it.
All parts of the plant are extremely toxic to humans and animals if ingested, and hemlock can also cause serious reactions if it comes into contact with your skin. Respiratory complications can occur if a mask is not used when attempting to eradicate the plant. My mom shared this post with some pretty graphic photos of a young girl in Iowa who fell into poison hemlock and it looks awful. Show this item to your kids and tell them to stay away.