Cicuta maculata (Water Hemlock)
|Also known as:||Spotted Water Hemlock, Spotted Cowbane|
|Life cycle:||biennial, perennial|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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.
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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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.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?