This Poisonous Montana Weed Can Result in a Very Bad Day
It's been a cool, wet spring in most of Montana and while we're certainly thankful for the precipitation, I know many people are getting a little antsy for warmer temps and outdoor recreation. As we start to get out into the mountains, hills, and open spaces of Big Sky Country this season, here's your friendly reminder to stay as far away as possible from poison hemlock. It's a nasty plant, and it can be found statewide. I'm sure it probably loves all the rain we've been getting this spring.
It killed Socrates.
Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) also goes by the names Devil's Bread, Carrot Fern, Devil's Porridge, Poison Parsley, Spotted Corobane, and Spotted Hemlock, according to the Montana Field Guide. Shakespeare included hemlock in the list of ingredients for the witch's brew in Hamlet and the Greek philosopher Socrates was forced to drink a toxic mix of hemlock.
The highly poisonous plant can be found statewide.
Montana State University provides a comprehensive PDF guide on how to identify the plant, which is commonly found in moist, disturbed soil along streams, ditches, cool open slopes, plains, and valleys. So... basically anywhere. I'm almost certain there is a large patch of it growing less than a 1/4 mile from my house. I do not plan on getting close enough to verify.
Don't even touch it.
All parts of the plant are extremely toxic for humans and animals if ingested and hemlock can also cause severe reactions if it contacts your skin. Respiratory complications can occur if a mask isn't used when attempting to eradicate the plant. My mom shared this article with some fairly graphic pictures of a young girl in Iowa that got into poison hemlock and it looks awful. Show your kids this article and tell them to stay away.