A poisonous invasive plant that may be fatal if eaten grows over parks, flower beds, and private gardens, wreaking havoc.
Poison hemlock, which looks like Queen Anne's Lace, grows along highway right-of-ways, fences, and the margins of farm fields. However, in the last year, the plant introduced to the United States from Europe has moved closer to more populated regions, raising concerns among specialists.
"That movement is a little worrisome to me because this plant is highly poisonous, and it's more of a chance for kids to play with it and dogs to eat it," Indiana's Natural Resources Conservation Service's Dan Shaver said.
"This is not a plant you want in your yard or in your neighborhood park." According to the National Park Service, the toxic biennial may be found in virtually every state in the United States.
Hemlock Invasion Expansion
This is the season when poison hemlock spreads and expands its territory. After flowering, each plant produces many seeds, up to 30,000, which mature between late June and August. Those seeds are easily dispersed when mowing in the late summer, according to Shaver.
It adores finding unmanaged areas, whether it's a street corner that hasn't been mowed or a pollinator habitat that has grown wild in a neighborhood.
Poison hemlock thrives in wet soil, according to Shaver. As a result of the rainy springs in the Midwest, the poisonous plant has had the right conditions to burst.
Shaver explained, "It just hit this exponential rate of dissemination." "Poison hemlock used to be nowhere, and now it's everywhere."
According to Kevin Tungesvick, a senior ecologist with Eco-Logic, an environmental restoration firm, the plant has gone too far in Indiana to be eliminated.
Meanwhile, he added, the objective is to manage and control poison hemlock to the greatest degree feasible to preserve both the environment and public health.
In June, Ohio State University Extension's Jason Hartschuh claimed the dangerous plant was "everywhere" in Ohio and that it was more evident this year than ever before.
Like any other invasive plant, Poison hemlock may out-compete and displace native species, which is a cause for worry, according to Shaver. However, the actual problem arises when it crowds into areas where humans, pets, or animals may come into touch with it.
From the seeds to the sap, all plant components are toxic, according to Dawn Slack of The Nature Conservancy's Indiana branch.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, if poison hemlock sap comes into touch with someone's skin, it can react with the sun, causing blisters and welts.
How to Properly Handle Poison Hemlock
That's why, if there's any poison hemlock to be removed, Slack advises wearing gloves, long sleeves, and trousers, as well as eye protection.
While the sap can be hazardous, the actual risk comes from ingesting any part of the plant, including the stalk and stems, leaves, flowers, seeds, or roots.
With no antidote, hemlock poisoning can be deadly. In addition, toxic alkaloids found in all plant sections can interfere with nerve signals to your muscles, resulting in respiratory failure.
Trembling, salivation, pupil dilatation, muscular paralysis, and loss of speech are all indications of poisoning.
Symptoms can appear as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, and the severity of the poisoning is determined by the amount consumed and the concentration of hemlock at the time. Even tiny quantities, though, might have significant consequences.
Slack stated, "None of this should enter your body."
Humans aren't the only ones that are affected. In meadows and fields where cattle eat it, or in a garden where a dog eats it, poison hemlock can be combined with innocuous plants.
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