Cicuta maculata (Water Hemlock)

Plant Info
Also known as: Spotted Water Hemlock, Spotted Cowbane
Genus:Cicuta
Family:Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life cycle:biennial, perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; along shores, wet fields, moist thickets, wet ditches, fens, swamps
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:3 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: flat

[photo of flowers] Flat clusters (umbels) up to 6 inches across arising from leaf axils and at the end of branching stems, in small groups (umbellets) of 12-15 flowers with 10 or more umbellets in a cluster. Flowers are 1/8 inch across, have 5 white petals, notched at the tip, 5 long stamens and a greenish white center.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound

[photo of leaves and vein pattern] Double compound leaves may be well over a foot long in the lower part of the plant and much smaller at the top; each compound leaf has 3 or more leaflets. Leaflets are up to 4 inches long and 1¼ inches across with pointed tips and sharp teeth, and often fold up some from the central vein. A distinguishing feature of the leaves is the veins radiating from the central vein tend to terminate in the notch of the teeth instead of the tip. Stems are much branched, may be green or purple, or have purple streaks or spots.

Notes:

This is one of the most deadly poisonous plants in the U.S. to both humans and animals. Water Hemlock is easy to distinguish from other members of the Carrot family by the leaves, in particular the vein pattern. There are as many as 4 varieties in North America and according to USDA Plants, 3 of them are present in Minnesota, but the DNR only recognizes var. maculata here. The distinguishing features of the different varieties are poorly documented.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Rice Creek Trail Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County and at Split Rock State Park, Lake County.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jody
on: 2009-07-25 00:33:02

My landscaper friend "consulted with ecologist Mary Reider with the DNR. She suggests pulling it if you are trying to foster diversity of species on your property."

and Mary McFadden-Lesar of the DNR wrote:
"Water hemlock 'Cicuta L.' may be a native plant but there is no reason why you have to allow it to thrive in your landscape. I, personally, would take Water Hemlock out of my landscape due to its toxicity to so many animals as well as humans."

One each for poisonous and weedy/invasive. Mine is drying in my firepit, awaiting the next bonfire.

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2009-07-25 18:20:58

Thanks for the clarification!

Posted by: Leo - Along Hwy 61 N of Pine City MN in road ditch
on: 2015-07-20 22:40:16

Several patches of these between the RR tracks and Hwy 61, N of Pine City, MN. We pulled several out of our rented pasture land. We plan to dry and burn them.

Posted by: Patti - Kanabec County
on: 2016-05-16 16:20:50

This grows in the wetland areas on the outskirts of our woods. There is a very good reason to leave it grow, as it is a host plant for Swallowtail Butterflies. I taught my children to respect and avoid it.

Posted by: Ben - Along the bike trails from Lilydale through Mendota
on: 2016-07-21 07:29:41

We were biking along the trails starting at Harriett Island up to Mendota. We saw many examples of what looked like Water Hemlock on either side of the bike trail starting past the yacht club and becoming more prolific as we approached the scenic overlook just past Axels in Downtown Mendota

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-07-21 07:52:02

Ben, I suspect what you saw was not water hemlock, but a relatively new invasive species first seen in Lilydale in 2012 - Japanese hedge-parsley, Torilis japonica.

Posted by: Linda - Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Eagan
on: 2016-07-31 11:51:37

Have seen just 3 plants --2 on stream edge by first parking lot and one at beginning of Discovery Trail.

Posted by: Steve - Itasca county
on: 2016-08-12 11:49:13

Have seen this plant many times along roads from Bigfork to Grandrapids. Must be more common than I first thought. Have checked several sources and am positive of the identification. So Butterflies like them. I do not. Will kill them if on my property

Posted by: Amy N - Golden Valley
on: 2017-06-02 18:58:21

I'm pretty sure this is in my backyard growing along the edge of the woods.

Posted by: Terry B - Crosby
on: 2017-07-01 10:43:44

We've had these on our property for years - it's a native plant, we don't touch it and it has beautiful flowers. So I just take pictures of it and leave it alone.

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