Poison Hemlock overspreading in Ohio

It’s been in Ohio since the 1800′s, but experts say its population is now exploding.
Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Poison Hemlock is invasive, brought to the US from Europe centuries ago. But experts say its coverage is exploding, and so is the danger.

Amy Stone is an Extension Educator of Agriculture and Natural Resources with the Ohio State University. “It’s very toxic to mammals, to humans and animals,” she tells 13abc. “It’s a concern, both in urban areas, and then also in rural areas where people may have livestock.”

Stone says that this species thrives in wet conditions, and our wet summer may be why the population is growing. Poison Hemlock is found in ditches and along the sides of roads and paths. She says it can look similar to parsley in its first year, and Queen Anne’s Lace when it flowers in its second year. Dead or alive, from the roots to the seeds, it won’t cause a rash or burn but it can kill you.

“The plant has to be ingested, and that could be through eating parts of the plant, it could be through your nose or eyes,” Stone explains.

It can lead to respiratory failure and Poison Hemlock is rapidly spreading across the country and in Toledo.

Paul Rasmusson is the Director of Public Service for the City of Toledo. “We started getting some concerned calls in our public spaces,” he tells 13abc. “We’ve got a lot of walking trails and parks and boulevards that people walk in. This is actually the first year we’ve received calls, at least to my knowledge.”

This time of year, you can find either the short herbaceous plants or the tall, hollow stems with small purple splotches. Either way, don’t pull it.

“If it’s individual plants, you can carefully dig it out, trying to get as much of the root system as possible,” explains Stone. “Where you have large expanses of it, a chemical treatment with an herbicide is recommended.”

Rasmusson expects even more Poison Hemlock to pop up next year because of how much he’s seen this year.

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