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Conium maculata flowers Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) Info
You have probably passed this plant in the wild many times without noticing because it so much resembles other members of the carrot family, especially Queen Anne's Lace (how to tell them apart).  Sacred to Hekate and evidencing a very Saturn-like preoccupation with borders, like other baneful herbs, hemlock likes to grow along roads, ditches, trails, or the edges of fields.  This baneful herb is used for magickal work involving astral travel and for purifying ritual swords and knives. The flowers are said to be used in spells to cause impotence in men, and the plant is good for ritually paralyzing a situation.  In Europe, it is considered one of the quintessential witching plants and an essential in any witch's garden.  It has been cultivated there since at least the Middle Ages. Some online sources claim that Native Americans used the juice of this plant to tip poison arrows, but that's doubtful; for one thing, this is not a North American native plant. Despite its high toxicity, it was brought over to North America as an ornamental and has made itself at home here, naturalizing widely. This deadly poisonous plant is also known as Herb Bennet, Spotted Corobane, Musquash Root, Beaver Poison, Poison Parsley, Spotted Hemlock, Kex, and Kecksies. How to grow it. Top

Conium stem 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 it. Top   

Hemlock flower The Differences 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. The flowQueen Anne's Lace flower 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

How 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 (see special 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.   General growing info   Top


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Honoring Hekate
Astral Travel
Purification of Magickal Tools

2004, 2015 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.