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An occasional plant of hedgerow and stream banks - very poisonous


Hemlock: the poison chalice

Post date: Monday, 10 October, 2016 - 21:37

One of our most famous, or perhaps that should be infamous, plants is hemlock (Conium maculatum) which is well known to be deadly poisonous, it is the plant that killed Socrates! Whilst everyone has probably heard of it how many people would actually recognise it if they saw it in the countryside?

Hemlock is a member of the carrot family and has the white umbel flower that carrot family members often have. It can look much like hogweed or cow parsley or any one of a number of plants but it does have one distinguishing feature, it has dark blotches on the stem which is unique. It also has a very unpleasant smell if the stem is squashed or bruised but if you decide to put this to the test make sure you wash your hands well afterwards. Flowering from June through until August it can be found on roadsides and waste ground, usually on chalk soils.

The plant contains a number of dangerous chemicals which are the cause of its toxicity and even small does are sufficient to kill both humans and livestock. So, for those who like to collect and eat herbs from the hedgerow or indulge in herbal remedies, make sure you know hemlock when you see it.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Hemlock
Scientific Name Conium maculatum
Family Carrot family - Umbelliferea
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Carrot Family - Umbelliferae
Flower Colour Group White
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
Preferred Environment
Look for Tall umbrella flowering plant with blotches on the stem
Additional Identification Notes

This species is often found in these habitats:

Habitat(s) Relationship
SH: Hedgerow Scrub Associated