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Hemlock Water Dropwort - Oenanthe crocata

Hemlock Water Dropwort - Oenante crocata

Main features

  • Prefers moist ground

  • Found near rivers, streams, ponds, and in wet meadows

  • Leaves are mid-green, 3-4 times pinnate, and roughly triangular-shaped

  • Stems are hollow, leaf stems are not

  • Crushed stems/leaves smell like sweet celery or parsley

  • Steam are grooved

  • Whole plant is hairless

  • Flowers arranged in white umbels

  • Fruit are yellowish

  • Has tuberous pale yellow-white roots resembling parsnips

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Hemlock Water Dropwort - Oenathe crocata

Deadly poisonous - advanced identification

Other common names: Dead Man's Fingers, Water Hemlock, Water Hemlock Dropwort, Horsebane, Yellow Water Dropwort, Dead Tongue, Five-Fingered Root


Scientific name meaning: Oenanthe comes from the Greek Oinotheras, which is a willowherb with roots smelling of wine. Plus, the Greek word Anth, meaning flower. This is due to this plant's flowers smelling like wine. Crocata is from the Latin Crocatus, meaning saffron-yellow, which is due to the yellow juice the plant exudes if it is crushed or cut

Season Spring to Autumn

Habitat - where will I find it? Hemlock Water Dropwort prefers a moist environment, but can be found on drier soils. It is common on the sides of rivers, streams, ponds, and in damp meadows

Description - what does it look like? Hemlock is hairless growing to 1.5m. 

It has mid-green pinnate leaves (3-4 times) that has lobed or toothed leaflets, and resemble the leaves of parsley or celery. The leaves are roughly triangular in overall shape.

The plant stems are hollow and grooved. The leaf stems are not hollow.

When crushed, the leaves/stems smell similar to parsley or sweet celery. It is not an offensive smell.

The flowers are arranged in white umbels and followed by yellowish fruit containing the seeds.

Hemlock Water Dropwort has pale yellow-white tuberous roots that strongly resemble parsnips

Possible lookalikes Looks like several members of the carrot family, including edible members. Similar looking edible members, such as Wild Celery, Wild Parsnip, Water Parsnip, Lovage and wild growing Parsley, should be left to advanced foragers. Some care should also be taken when identifying Alexanders 

Poisonous parts All parts of the plant are deadly poisonous, the main toxin being Oenanthotoxin. The roots contain the highest concentration of toxins. It causes convulsions, seizures and death

Use in herbal medicine Due its deadly toxicity, Hemlock Water Dropwort has no medicinal use

This plant is a deadly poisonous - do not consume
If you are suffering from any ailment or need medical advice, please see your General Practitioner

Other uses Has been used as the method of execution, and to poison rats and moles

Hazards This plant is deadly poisonous

Importance to other species An important food source for bees, wasps and hoverflies

Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!

Hemlock Water Dropwort - Oenante crocata - leaf
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