Poison Hemlock invades River Road Park

With the warm weather here, many Keizerites are planning on going outside and enjoying one of the many parks in the area, however, be sure to carouse with caution at River Road Park due to the copious amounts of poison hemlock there. 

Known as the plant that killed Socrates, the plants are located along the western edge of the park where the park meets the water.

Conium (hemlock) is a member of the carrot family, though unlike its delectable cousin, hemlock is deadly if ingested. 

Poison hemlock is considered to be one of the most poisonous plants in North America. While all parts of the plant are poisonous, the roots and root crown are the most deadly. When handling the plant it is recommended to wear gloves and other protective gear as the sap of the plant can cause severe dermatitis or poisoning. 

The plant looks similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, another plant often used for medicinal reasons such as antiseptic, though can be differentiated through the stem. While hemlock sports purple spotting on the stem, Queen Anne’s Lace has a hairy stem. 

The plant can also be seen in Keizer Rapids Park near the boat launch as well as other Salem-Keizer parks on or near a river. 

Hemlock is a plant native to Europe, North Africa and Asia and was originally brought to the U.S. as a garden plant sometime in the 1800s. The plant is adaptable to a wide variety of climates, however, it requires a moist environment. The plant thrives in pastures, along streams and irrigation ditches and in non-crop areas.

Hemlock can grow from three to seven feet tall and typically has deep root systems. With hollow, erect stems, hemlock flowers often appear as bunches of white umbels, which look similar to little white umbrellas. 

The plant typically reproduces through its seeds which can be dispersed via water, wind, animal fur, clothing such as boots or by machinery. 

If you find any poison hemlock be sure to give it a wide berth and call your city’s Public Works to ensure it is removed.

Contact Quinn Stoddard
[email protected] or 503-390-1051

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