Did you know:
- Hemlock has several names including Conium maculatum, Poison Parsley, Devil’s Bread, and Poison Hemlock.
- Conium comes from the Greek word konas – “to whirl” – because vertigo is one of the symptoms from eating this plant.
- Hemlock is a highly poisonous member of the carrot family. It also affects animals and can cause birth defects in pregnant mammals.
- All parts of this invasive plant are toxic, especially the seeds, but it is thought to be less harmful when grown in colder climates or when dried out.
- It grows small white flowers on a speckled stem that turns purple at the base. All parts are hairless.
- A flowering bush smells of mice, but the crushed leaves and roots are pungent like parsnip.
- Hemlock prefers warm, moist soil so it often flourishes alongside streams, ditches, and the edges of fields.
- The Ancient Greeks used hemlock to execute condemned prisoners, the most famous being the philosopher Socrates.
- In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the three Weird Sisters add “Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark” to their magic cauldron – a sure sign they were up to no good!
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. David Bevington (Fourth Ed.) (Worldwide: Longman, 1997)
Stuart, Malcolm. The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism (London: Black Cat, 1987)
Wikipedia, “Conium maculatum” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conium_maculatum