Wild Food Foraging
by Gabe Garms
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is one of the deadliest plants in North America and can be fatal if just a small amount is ingested. It has been in flower here in Washington for the last month or so and can be found across much of the United States. It grows (often in dense patches) along roads, trails and the edges of fields and streams. I actually have it growing in my back yard, right along side one of it’s most common look-a-likes, Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota).
Queen Anne’s lace is a wild edible (the root) and given that it typically does grow in the same conditions as poison hemlock, being able to tell the difference could save your life. Plus, you’ll want to know if you have it growing on your property because it’s also toxic to pets and livestock. So let’s walk through how to identify both so that you can confidently identify them in the future.
Poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) vs. Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota):
1. Both are in the Apiaceae family and have hollow stems, but poison hemlock’s stem is hairless and has purple blotches. Even a very young poison hemlock will display the purple blotching. On the other hand, the stem of Queen Anne’s lace doesn’t have purple blotches and is hairy. See the photos below for a comparison.