The white flowery Queen Anne’s lace has an evil impostor that is invading lawns and parks across the country. Poisonous hemlock resembles the small puff of white flowers like Queen Anne’s lace, but it’s an invasive species that is toxic to humans, pets, livestock, and other animals.
The plant was originally brought to the U.S. from Europe. It’s spreading in backyard gardens, along highways, fences, and farm fields, and can be found in nearly every state in the U.S., agriculture experts warn.
“It just hit this exponential rate of spread. Poison hemlock was nowhere and all of a sudden it was everywhere … That movement is a bit scary to me because this plant is very toxic and it’s more of an opportunity for kids to play with it and pets to eat it,” Dan Shaver, with Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, told the Indianapolis Star. “It is not a plant you want around your home or in your local park.”
It is deadly if eaten with no antidote available. Also, don’t get it on your skin. The sap of poison hemlock can irritate the skin, reacting with the sun to cause blisters and welts, warns the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Take precautions and use gloves, long sleeves, pants, and eye protection to remove the plants, experts advise.
It can be tough to tell the difference between Queen Anne’s lace and poison hemlock based on their outward appearance. Poison hemlock tends to flower between June through August while Queen Anne’s lace blooms between July through September.
The stems may offer more of a clue. Poison hemlock has hollow stems that are green with purple spots. Queen Anne’s lace has solid green stems.
The size can also be a clue. Poison hemlock grows six to 10 feet tall when fully grown. Queen Anne’s lace is only one to two feet tall.