Forage Friday #21 Water Hemlock

Hello friends!Tonight’s feature image is titled Water Hemlock 7319″. Although this particular image was taken specifically for this article all of the photos are my original work and are available as prints by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

⚠️Water Hemlock is a toxic look-alike of several wild edible plants and can kill you.

I have to admit that I only have a trivial knowledge of Socrates. I know that he wrote several plays and was a philosopher in ancient Greece. I know that he bucked the system and was ultimately executed for political Discord under the guise of religious heresy. And, a I know that his method of execution was the famous hemlock tea.

Throughout my Forage Friday posts I’ve made references to Hemlock. It’sa dangerous look-alike of Yarrow, Parsnip, Angelica, Queen Anne’s Lace and several others. So when I happened to spot Water Hemlock growing in a ditch I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to show the face of why I’m so cautious about certain plants. The active component of the poison is Cicutoxin and the Wikipedia entry says it all. It’s a neurotoxin that shuts down the respiratory system. The description of the effects are brutal and even with the aid of modern medicine the odds of survival are low. Wikipedia also states that it’s used to treat certain types of cancer but is quick to point out that there’s no citation for those entries.

I probably should have included photos of the chambered roots. The hollow tubers contain a yellow liquid that soon turns red when exposed to the air.

Zooming in on the stems (which are also hollow) shows another tell tale sign of purple splotches. Especially where the leaf connects to the stem.

Foraging for food is a rewarding experience and the skills gained not only makes us more independent but also gives us a closer connection to history. However, there are hazards to prepare for and if there’s any doubt about what you’ve found it’s best error on the side of caution and toss it out.

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