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Hemlock Water Dropwort

Oenanthe crocata

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Apiaceae (Carrot)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
125 centimetres tall
Ditches, grassland, marshes, meadows, mudflats, ponds, riverbanks, waterside, wetland.

White, 5 petals
White umbels, usually with lower bracts, up to 4cm wide.
Cylindrical fruits, ridged, 2 styles, up to 6mm across.
The basal leaves are pinnate with 3 to 4 leaflets. They are broadly oval in shape and toothed. The stem leaves have 2 to 3 leaflets and are not as broad as the basal leaflets. The stems themselves are hollow. In my personal opinion, the leaflets look a little similar to parsley.
When mature the smell of these plants are said to resemble that of parsley.
Other Names:
Balder Root, Ban Dock, Beldrum, Bendock, Bilders, Cowbane, Dead Tongue, Deadman's Cress, Dean's Fingers, Deathin, Eltrot, Five-fingered Root, Five-fingered Rot, Hemlock Dropwort, Hemlock Parsley, Hemlock Wort, Horsebane, Water Dropwort, Water Hemlock, Water Lovage, Water Sapwort, Wild Rue, Yellow Water Dropwort.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Other Information


Oenanthe crocata, commonly known as Hemlock Water-dropwort or Hemlock Parsley, is a species of flowering plant in the Apiaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia and is found in wetlands, damp meadows and riverbanks. The species has a hollow stem and its flowers are white with a yellow center. It is poisonous and is often used in traditional medicine for treating a variety of ailments.


Hemlock Water-dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) is a poisonous plant native to Europe and Asia that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It grows in wet meadows, along rivers and ditches, and in other marshy areas.

The plant is easily recognizable by its fern-like leaves, white umbrella-shaped flowers, and carrot-like root. It can grow up to 1 meter in height, and its flowers bloom in the summer.

Despite its attractive appearance, Hemlock Water-dropwort is highly toxic to humans and animals. All parts of the plant contain a toxic alkaloid called oenanthotoxin, which can cause paralysis and death if ingested.

Symptoms of Hemlock Water-dropwort poisoning include tremors, convulsions, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and death within hours of ingestion. There is no antidote for the poison, so it's essential to seek medical attention immediately if you suspect someone has consumed this plant.

In some cultures, Hemlock Water-dropwort was used for medicinal purposes, but its toxic nature made it dangerous to use. Today, it's widely regarded as a noxious weed and is often controlled or eradicated in areas where it grows.

It's important to note that Hemlock Water-dropwort can easily be mistaken for other edible plants such as wild parsnips or wild carrots, so it's crucial to properly identify plants before consuming them. In some cases, even livestock have been known to consume Hemlock Water-dropwort, resulting in death.

The plant is also a threat to wildlife and can lead to the decline of local ecosystems if left uncontrolled. For this reason, many land management agencies have programs in place to control or eliminate Hemlock Water-dropwort populations.

In some areas, the plant is used as a traditional remedy for various ailments, but the dangers of Hemlock Water-dropwort far outweigh any potential benefits. Modern medicine has many safer alternatives, and it's best to rely on these methods for treating health issues.

It's also important to be cautious of the spread of Hemlock Water-dropwort. The plant can easily spread through its seeds, which are dispersed by the wind or by water. It's essential to remove the plant and its roots before they have a chance to produce seeds.

In addition, it's crucial to educate others about the dangers of Hemlock Water-dropwort, especially if they live in areas where the plant is common. This can help prevent accidental ingestion and reduce the spread of the plant.

If you live in an area where Hemlock Water-dropwort is present, take steps to remove it and prevent its spread. Wear protective clothing and gloves when handling the plant, and dispose of it properly to avoid contaminating the soil or water.

It's also worth mentioning that Hemlock Water-dropwort is a prime example of why it's important to be mindful of the plants we encounter in our daily lives. Many plants, even those that are native to our area, can be toxic and pose a threat if not properly managed.

In some areas, Hemlock Water-dropwort has been used in traditional medicine for various ailments, but its toxic nature makes it a dangerous choice. It's essential to rely on modern medicine for the treatment of health issues, as these methods have been rigorously tested and have a proven track record of safety and efficacy.

It's important to be vigilant when it comes to toxic plants like Hemlock Water-dropwort, as they can have far-reaching consequences if not properly managed. By educating ourselves and others, we can help prevent accidental ingestion and reduce the spread of these dangerous plants.

In conclusion, Hemlock Water-dropwort is a beautiful but toxic plant that should be approached with caution. It's essential to be mindful of the plants we encounter in our daily lives and to take steps to control or eliminate dangerous plants like Hemlock Water-dropwort to protect ourselves and the environment. With proper education and preventative measures, we can help reduce the impact of these toxic plants and ensure a safer and healthier world for all.


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