The Royal BC Museum’s head botanist is warning the public about the dangers of poisonous hemlock.
The invasive species is now coming into full bloom in Victoria, and it can be potentially deadly if ingested.
“It’s important to get it in people’s awareness,” said Royal BC Museum’s curator of botany, Dr Ken Marr.
Marr says that in 2002, two people cooked and ate some of the plant, possibly mistaking it for another member of the parsley family. The couple reported numbness in their mouths, followed by respiratory arrest. They ended up spending five days in hospital.
Poisonous hemlock is identifiable by the purple splotches found on its stem, a distinguishing characteristic in the parsley family. It is also related to giant hogweed, another poisonous plant commonly found in Greater Victoria.
The plant is also poisonous to livestock.
The first sample of poisonous hemlock in the museum’s possession dates back to 1914. Marr says he is available to ID plants for the public if they bring in samples or send a photograph.
“We have training and specialized knowledge from being in the field and seeing the plants,” Marr said. “We have a lot of expertise here that’s available to the public.”
Any landowners who find poisonous hemlock on their property are advised to contact the Coastal Invasive Species Committee to report the plant, either by phone at 250-857-2472 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org