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how to identify hemlock

One of the world’s most famous poisonous plants, hemlock is a serious concern in the UK. To help you avoid it, we’ve put together this guide on how to identify it.

What Is Hemlock?

Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is a hardy plant that can live in a variety of environments. Every part of it is toxic when ingested, especially the seeds and the roots. Handling hemlock can also lead to poisoning through skin contact.

How to Spot Hemlock

Hemlock prefers damp conditions for growing, so it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that you will encounter it in your back garden. In the UK, hemlock can usually be found by roadsides or on waste ground, along the edges of fields and meadows, or in poorly-drained soil near streams and ditches.

It can be identified thanks to its features:

  • Flowers – Hemlock blossoms are umbrella-like clusters of tiny white flowers, known as ‘umbels’, each of which has five petals. 

  • Stems – Hemlock stems are smooth, green, hairless, grooved, and covered in purple or red spots and streaks. 

  • Leaves – The leaves are triangular in shape, and look like ferns. 

  • Height – At full height, the plant can reach up to eight feet tall! So, if you see a plant that resembles a lot of white flowers looming over you, it might just be hemlock.

It's the height that may help you differentiate hemlock from similar plants, like cow parsley, which only grows to about six feet in height. Both plants are classed as umbellifers, for their umbels of white flowers, but hemlock is the tallest umbellifer in the UK. Another umbellifer, giant hogweed, has coarse white hairs on its stems, as opposed to the smooth and hairless stems of hemlock.

How to Remove Hemlock Safely

Although you can get rid of hemlock by yourself, we strongly urge you to contact a weed control specialist instead. We offer weed clearance services here at Taylor Total Weed Control if you are concerned about hemlock on your property.

If you have any questions about our services, or about any of the weeds that might be growing on your property, don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we’ll do our best to help.

Contact Taylor Total Weed Control

Contact Taylor Weed Control

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