A 3-year-old Border Collie mix recently died after eating a water hemlock, among the most lethal plants in the world. The dog was playing in the Horsetooth Reservoir in Larimer County, Colorado, when she grabbed the plant.
She collapsed in minutes and died within the hour. A friend of the dog’s owner told KWGN-TV, “It started to go down rapidly with losing all the functions and she passed out. She couldn’t stand up anymore. She was panting very heavily. Her eyes were out.”
Botanists consider water hemlock, which has flowers that look a lot like Queen Anne’s lace, to be among the continent’s most deadly plants. Its toxicity is due to a substance called cicutoxin, an unsaturated alcohol that has a strong carrot-like odor, According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The poison is a gummy brown or straw-colored liquid.
It grows in moist areas, mostly around lakes, ditches, and streambeds.
All parts of the plants contain the poison, but the roots, which have been described as parsnip-like, and stems have greater concentrations. Green seed heads are also dangerous.
A very small dose can be deadly; eight ounces can kill a horse. Symptoms include frothing, tremors, collapse and seizures.
For more information on other dangerous plants, check out this USDA list.
One variety of water hemlock is known as Hemlock Cicuta maculata.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Another is known as Hemlock Cicuta douglasii.
Photo credit: Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1992. Western wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. West Region, Sacramento.
Cover Photo credit: Fritzflohrreynolds/Wikimedia Commons