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Two poisonous species of hemlock found in Delaware wetlands

July 6, 2021 GMT

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Two deadly species of hemlock have been found in Delaware, and the state’s Department of Agriculture is warning people to avoid plants that look like wild carrots to prevent the possibility of being poisoned.

Environmental scientists confirmed that poison hemlock and spotted water hemlock were located in Sussex County wetlands, according to a news release from the agency. Both plants have small white flowers and bloom between June and August.

Poison hemlock also grows in meadows, pastures and ditches. The invasive plant can reach between 6 and 8 feet (1.8 and 2.4 meters) tall and has a hairless stem with purple blotches. The department says this type of hemlock releases an odor but shouldn’t be crushed to smell because toxic oils can be emitted.

Spotted water hemlock is a native plant and can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall. Their stems vary in color from solid green or purple to green with purple spots or stripes, and they have fern-like leaves. People who think they found either plant can email pictures to DDA.Marketing@delaware.gov for identification.


The Agriculture Department says residents shouldn’t try to eradicate the hemlocks themselves and should instead find a licensed aquatic pest control company to treat them. It also advises against mowing the plants, which can release toxic particles into the air.

Exposure can cause reactions ranging from vomiting and stomach pain to central nervous system issues causing seizures and potentially death, according to the agency. Anyone who may have ingested either plant or inhaled their toxic particles should call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

While livestock don’t enjoy eating fresh poison hemlock leaves if other food is available, ingestion could kill them within just a few hours. There’s no antidote for animals because consuming the toxin leads to respiratory failure.