Is this hemlock? Or otherwise poisonous?
September 11, 2017 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Never have I been so glad of the two-questions-a-week option! Is this stuff hemlock? Or some other poisonous plant?

So we have this pretty white flower growing in our extremely fixer-upper yard. I am very bad at identifying things, so even though I can see someways in which is is not hemlock-like, I am worried that I am wrong. I also have an email in to the DNR, so a professional will be consulted, but if it's hemlock it's super poisonous and I want to get rid of it ASAP.

It has purple stems and relatively few, jagged leaves. See the photos here. It is growing in a dry, sunny area and the tallest plant is about 3 feet high.

Hemlock has been spreading in central MN - this isn't out of the question.
posted by Frowner to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Doesn't look like hemlock to me. Hemlock looks like this
posted by conic at 4:16 PM on September 11, 2017

Pretty sure that is not Conium maculatum , whose leaves are "two- to four-pinnate, finely divided and lacy, overall triangular in shape, up to 50 cm (20 in) long and 40 cm (16 in) broad." It also prefers wetter areas, and if anything should look more like Queen Anne's lace.

I don't know what it is, but it isn't poison hemlock.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:18 PM on September 11, 2017

White snakeroot, Ageratina altissima. It is toxic to eat. Also toxic to drink milk from cows that ate it. It's famous for killing Lincoln's mother!
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 4:19 PM on September 11, 2017 [7 favorites]

Addendum: it's otherwise a very harmless plant, a common wildflower usually in lightly wooded areas, and native to that area. Doesn't produce any appetizing berries that children would be attracted to, and won't give you any contact dermatitis or anything. If you like its looks, keep it, it's a nice late-late summer/early fall plant for the pollinators to have around!
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 4:30 PM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: "otherwise poisonous" it is! Should we get rid of it or is it just average poisonous like ivy berries or other things that we just assume small children won't eat? Children don't usually eat weeds, if I recall my childhood, but if it seems like a risk to roving neighbor children I'll root it up tomorrow. (Is tomorrow soon enough?)
posted by Frowner at 4:32 PM on September 11, 2017

Response by poster: Okay, that answered my question in re children!
posted by Frowner at 4:33 PM on September 11, 2017

I *personally* would consider it pretty low risk. There are honestly so many toxic plants floating around out there, both in the native flora and weedy non-natives... plants rarely "want" their leaves eaten, for survival reasons, and often produce secondary metabolites to discourage animal herbivory by either tasting really bad or, like, being deadly. But the majority of them feature nothing that humans find particularly tempting, so folks usually only hear about the ULTRA deadly stuff (like Conium maculatum and Cicuta maculata, poison hemlock and water hemlock, the latter containing the most potently lethal toxin in North America) or plants with tasty looking berries that people forage, thinking it's harmless. Unless there's a kid around who's a weirdo salad-fiend and can't not stuff all green leaves into their face, I think you're in the clear!
posted by Ornate Rocksnail at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, we had it in our front yard, with our three small kids. Don't let your cows eat it and it's probably fine.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on September 11, 2017

« Older Seattle resume services?   |   Data privacy/governance analogies sought Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.