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Is this Water Hemlock Dropwort in my garden (and what to do if so)?

January ManJanuary Man Posts: 210
I casually asked my partner a couple of days ago - "what's that stuff growing down there"?  We're starting to take our first steps into foraging and so some plants I've not previously taken an interest in now have me curious.  

She later took a look on her laptop and seems it might the most poisonous plant on the UK!  

So can anyone help to ID for sure whether this is Water Hemlock Dropwort?  We've got loads of it!  Mostly growing on the banks of the stream, but some is actually in the stream as per one of the photos.  

If it is, are we best to try and get rid of it (with all of the necessary safety precautions of course)?  We have a dog that like to eat grass (and all manner of stuff) so that's our main concern.  But also, sheep and cattle graze in nearby feels and we wouldn't want to be responsible for spreading it to those places.  

On the other hand, we do like to encourage wildlife in the garden so if it is good for wildlife it would be interesting to hear about that too.  

If any photos are needed of a particular aspect to help ID, please let me know.  

Many thanks













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  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 4,453
    edited May 2020
    It looks a match to me. (Don't be confused by the website URL into thinking it's edible! It's a forager's website).

    https://www.wildfooduk.com/edible-wild-plants/hemlock-water-dropwort/





    If you want to pull it up out of concern for your dog that's up to you - I would have thought the risk of a dog eating it is very low though. As far as it spreading from your garden - well it's a native and it spread into your garden, presumably along the stream, so I wouldn't feel you need to take responsibility for that.

    I would probably pull up most of it, if only to keep that lovely stream bed open. It looks like it wants to take over! I have a dog and wouldn't be concerned about him really... he only eats grass, and only specific types of grass at that!
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 3,705
    edited May 2020


    I said.. "I don't think it is a match"...that was for the Conium maculatum.

    Sorry..may have confused thing.
    Read your thread re most poisonous plant so was double checking for you.

    It is not right for Conium maculatum  poison hemlock...VERY POISONOUS

    Oenanthe crocata  water hemlock fits perfectly...also VERY POISONOUS.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • January ManJanuary Man Posts: 210
    Many thanks for the replies.  

    I have since taken more photos and I emailed them to a bushcraft/forager chap who replied saying he also felt it probably is water hemlock.  Here are the extra photos if anyone wants to take a look:  

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=1q_oRR731Qjs98TWBRY6OdqylnGDKvcq2

    I agree RE removing it to keep the stream bed open.  In all honesty that's what made me ask my partner about it.  I love the stream and at this time of year so much of it gets hidden and it's nice to cut back where possible so it can still be enjoyed.  

    The chap I emailed also recommended I use a face mask alongside all of the other necessary precautions, as someone he knew because ill from the "fumes".  Just thought I'd mention that in case anyone comes across this in the future.  

    Thanks again

    PS - the last of my photos above - the one with the white flowers - is a different plant!  It was one of the things confusing my ID'ing.  So I checked again this morning and from amongst huge clumps of WHD this is a different plant popping through.  I tried to edit the post to remove it but couldn't, so perhaps if a mod sees this they can delete it for me so that it doesn't create a red herring in the future.   
  • January ManJanuary Man Posts: 210
    Sorry, forgot to ask ....   Another thing I am not sure about - do I need to worry about the "fumes" when burning it?  Should I wear a face mask then as well?  
  • Silver surferSilver surfer Posts: 3,705
    edited May 2020
    We used to have Oenanthe crocata  water hemlock in our stream. (Old home in Wales)
    It was very satisfying to pull them out....root and all...it was not difficult as they were rooted into the stones. Just used gloves. Lived to tell the tale.
    Roots like white carrots
    That way we did not bruise/damage the leaves
    We just left them on the bank to rot down as they would do in the autumn.

    Sorry cannot offer help /advice on burning/fumes.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • January ManJanuary Man Posts: 210
    edited May 2020
    Thanks Silver surfer - very helpful.  

    Not really sure what to do with it once it has been pulled up.  I've done some reading RE burning and opinions seem very mixed and divided.  Someone has said to sun dry it then compost it as the toxin chemicals are quite fragile, but the idea of putting it in compost makes me nervous.    

    I can see the sense in leaving them on the bank as that's what would happen naturally anyhow (aside from the roots, but I could destroy them some other way).  But what I don't like so much about that it is it would be unsightly, and - and this could be me being daft - I'd worry about wildlife coming along and having a munch.  But it might end up being my preferred method.  I'd pull them all up first.  Then chop the roots off and bag them up whilst leaving all the top growth on the banks to rot down.  

    Any further thoughts or anecdotes on disposal would be great.

    Cheers
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,336
    edited May 2020
    I'd have no worries about composting it as the toxins will indeed be quickly broken down.  As an addition to that, growing plants in general do not take-in toxins from the remains of other plants.  I compost rhubarb leaves (oxalic acid), shredded laurel (cyanates) and aconitums (aconitine) amongst others and my compost is excellent stuff. :)

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • January ManJanuary Man Posts: 210
    Many thanks for the replies.

    Yes, there is a lot of stuff on the net regarding the toxicity of the plant and how a small amount can cause death in a matter of hours.  Not a nice death either by all accounts.  Most say it is the most toxic plant in the UK, some say in the whole of Europe.  

    I think we've got enough if it to fill about three tonne bags!   :#
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 77,403
    When living out in the sticks we had a small stream at the end of our garden ... it eventually turns into the River Blyth but at that stage it was a few inches deep and I could step over it to the opposite bank. Nevertheless every year the local River Authority cut back the herbage on the bank in late summer/early autumn ... 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







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