Cicuta maculata L.
Water hemlock, spotted water hemlock, spotted parsley, common water-hemlock
This extremely toxic perennial is native throughout North America.
Identification: Water hemlock, a member of the carrot family, is 3-6' (91-182 cm) in height. Stems are spotted or striped with purple. Small white flowers about ⅛" (3.2 mm) across occur in small separated groups, resembling little parasols. Each tiny flower has five petals and five stamens. The “parasols” are arranged into umbrella-shaped flowerheads. The separated parasols are probably the most obvious identifying feature of this plant.
Here is a comparison of some similar-appearing species:
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|Plant||3-6' (91-182 cm) in height. Extremely poisonous||Up to 3’ tall, with leaves so finely divided as to look featherlike, with “feathers” up to 9” long||Up to 6½' (2 m) in height. Poisonous : causes phytophotodermatitis.|
|Flowers||Small white flowers about ⅛" (3.2 mm) across occur in small separated groups, resembling little parasols. Each flower has 5 petals and 5 stamens. The “parasols” are arranged into umbrella-shaped flowerheads.||Densely packed clusters of tiny white flowers, flat-topped or umbrella-shaped. (Cultivars may be yellow, red, or many other colors.) Flowers have 4-6 petals; each petal has three lobes.||Large white compound umbels about 8" (20 cm) in size. Individual flowers have five petals of inconsistent size.|
|Leaves||Up to 16" (40 cm) across, split into sharp lobes that vaguely resemble maple leaves, with a disagreeable odor.|
|Stem||Stems are spotted or striped with purple.||Thick, grooved, hollow, hairy, and often reddish.|
|Fruit||Flat, green, egg- or heart-shaped, ⅜-½" (9.5-12 mm) × ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm).|
|Habitats||Meadows, fields, nearly anywhere there is full or partial sun||Moist, shady mountain woodlands, streambeds|
Edibility: Poisonous The spotted water hemlock is North America’s most toxic plant. All parts of this plant are poisonous to people, as well as to livestock. When swallowed, it produces death from violent and painful convulsions. Even very small quantities can cause death or permanent neurological damage.
Cicuta maculata on Missouriplants.com
Cicuta maculata on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods
Cicuta maculata on plants.ces.ncsu.edu
Cicuta maculata at Illinois Wildflowers
Cicuta maculata on Wikipedia
Cicuta maculata on Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses
Cicuta maculata on Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness
Cicuta maculata at the University of Florida IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
Cicuta maculata from the Jepson Manual
1From the Wikipedia article
Cicuta maculata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Sep 2020.