Hemlock (Conium maculatum) Info
Hemlock Toxicity. As its
name indicates, this plant is quite poisonous.
Symptoms of hemlock poisoning include nervousness,
trembling, incoordination, dilated pupils, weak
heartbeat, cold extremities, coma, and death
caused by respiratory failure. Because of the
scent (poisonous plants find harmless ways of
letting us know they are poisonous), animals
generally leave this alone unless they are
herbivores and have nothing else to eat. The
warmer the weather, the higher the alkaloid
(poisonous) content, although the toxin is
destroyed by heating or boiling. The highest
concentration of alkaloids generally follows an
upward path through the season (roots > stem
> leaves > seeds), but toxicity varies with
climate, soil, and even with the time of day.
Be wary of this plant--0.5% by weight is
enough to kill a person, and people have died from eating
as few as 8 leaves--but consider that most of us have probably picked it as children,
mistaking it for Queen Anne's Lace
(how to tell
them apart). Still, you can absorb its
chemicals through your skin. The Hemlock
Society does not advise the use of this plant for
"self-delivery." Respiratory muscles are
paralyzed, and you suffocate.
I will add to that that I am selling these seeds for
growing. This is NOT an appropriate choice for getting rid
of varmints, people you don't like, or yourself, so just don't do
Between Poison Hemlock & Queen Anne's
Lace. Hemlock stems are
smooth; the stem of Queen Anne's Lace has hair.
Hemlock stems have purple spots on the lower part;
Queen Anne's Lace stems are plain green. Hemlock
has a bad, musty smell that reminds some people of
mice; Queen Anne's Lace smells like carrot greens.
Hemlock gets much taller (3-10ft/90-300cm) than Queen
Anne's Lace does (3ft/90cm). The easiest way to
tell these plants apart is when they are in bloom.
ers of Queen Anne's Lace
have a tiny dark purple flower in the center
of the flower mass--the queen's blood, which can
help you remember it. Hemlock flowers are all
white. If you see this plant out in the
wild, be especially careful about harvesting it,
because it is very difficult to tell it apart from
water hemlock, which is far, far more
poisonous--one bite of a water hemlock root has
been enough to kill a human being.
Always wear gloves when handling this plant, and if you burn it, do not breathe
in the smoke. Top
to grow hemlock. This
plant is a biennial in very moist areas, which
means that the first year it produces a rosette of
leaves and develops a root. The second year
it sends up flower stalks, blooms, and produces
seeds, after which it dies. It can sometimes
be perennial or annual (flower first year),
however. Seeds will germinate from late
summer to early spring and like cool weather.
Plant at no warmer than room temperature and
barely cover. They should germinate in two
weeks. Or sow on Winter Solstice
directions on the Solstice Sowing page).
Transplant to moist, rich soil and full sun.
This plant gets 3-10ft/90-300cm tall and blooms
all summer. One summer night in southern
Indiana, I stumbled upon an entire meadow filled
with poison hemlock in flower--awe-inspiring in
the moonlight. This plant can be invasive.
Uses in Witchcraft & Magic: