Poison-Hemlock Could Be Growing in Your Garden
And it looks almost identical to harmless Queen Anne’s Lace wildflowers.
Having wildflowers spontaneously spring up in your garden can be endearing at times. It's like nature wanted to support you in your green thumb endeavors by adding its own flourish to your yard, until you learn that some wildflowers are deadly.
Poison-hemlock (Conium maculatum) is a wildflower that grows throughout the United States, and although its flowers are strikingly like those of Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota), you do not want to add this wildflower to your arrangements. Poison-hemlock and Queen Anne's lace are both part of the wild carrot and parsnip families, which is where they get their similarity in appearance.
According to the USDA, "all parts of poison-hemlock (leaves, stem, fruit, and root) are poisonous," and the leaves are especially poisonous in the spring until the time that the plant flowers. It typically grows along fence-lines, and in moist places. To avoid confusing poison-hemlock and Queen Anne's lace, which is safe to include in flower arrangements and edible, here are a few ways to differentiate between the two plants.
1. The texture and coloring of their stems
The stems of both poison-hemlock and Queen Anne's lace are hollow, but poison-hemlock will have small purple spots all over it stem, according to the USDA. Queen Anne's lace has no purple spots and is hairy, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
2. The shaping of their flowers
The umbel (the cluster of flowers) of Queen Anne's lace is flat-topped and sometimes there is a tiny, singular purple flower in the center of the lace, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
The umbel of poison-hemlock is more rounded and the flowers are not as tightly clustered together.
3. The texture and coloring of their leaves
The leaves on Queen Anne's lace will have hair on them like its stem, while the leaves of poison-hemlock will not.
These three main differences between the two plants should help in identifying which wildflowers you can safely bring into your home, and which you should avoid. A final distinguishing feature of Queen Anne's lace are the pronged bracts, which look like skinny leaves, that are located at the base of the flowers and the umbel.
The USDA notes that if you want to catch poison-hemlock early, and rid it from your backyard, you can treat the plants before they begin to bud.
Next time you discover a new wildflower in your yard, make sure that it's a friendly wildflower and not a foe to you and your garden.