Poisonous, deadly weeds blooming in central Ohio


Poison hemlock looks a lot like Queen Ann’s Lace, but there are significant differences

SHARONVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) — People in central Ohio picking wildflowers, working in their yards or weeding the gardens should beware — wild parsnip and poison hemlock are growing.

Poison hemlock looks a lot like Queen Ann’s Lace, but there are significant differences to help you recognize it.

Queen Ann’s Lace has stems similar to daisies. Its flowers are super flat on top. The plant typically stays below four feet in height.

Poison hemlock looks like it branches out. The flowers are round on top. This plant can grow to be more than six feet tall.

Poison hemlock
Source: WCMH
Side of poison hemlock

“Because it’s such a prolific seed producer, it can rise to a huge infestation pretty quickly,” said Joe Boggs, an assistant professor of entomology with the Ohio State University extension office in Hamilton County.

The season for the weeds has passed in southern Ohio, according to Boggs, but the toxic flowering weeds are maturing right now in central Ohio.

How scared should you be?

The sap is not airborne. You have to actually get it on your skin.

There is another poisonous weed growing in the area called wild parsnip. This weed gets to be about as tall as poison hemlock and has a golden yellow color. The stem has blotchy purple spots.

Wild parsnip
Side of wild parsnip

The poison from this plant has to be ingested in order to cause injury. That could mean getting the sap on your hands and then rubbing your eyes, mouth, ears or nose.

“It has to get into your body in some form or fashion,” Boggs said. “It is the Hemlock made famous by Socrates. It is what he drank.”

Basically, wear gloves when doing yard work, keep your hands or potentially exposed areas away from your mouth, ears, eyes, nose or open cuts and wounds. Wash your hands when finished in the yard.

If you are not sure if a plant is poisonous or not, you may email questions and pictures to the OSU agriculture office.

“What we’re trying to do is help people identify it,” Boggs said. “ If you have it in your yard, get rid of it, tell your friends about it so we can limit exposure.”

Read Boggs’ article for the Buckeye Yard & Garden online.

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