Information on Hemlock

Common Name: Hemlock
Scientific Name: Conium maculatum
Irish Name: Moing mhear
Family Group: Apiaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Hemlock could sometimes be confused with:

Angelica, Wild, Carrot, Wild, Parsley, Cow, Water-dropwort, Hemlock,

This is a highly poisonous, hairless biennial that is frequently found on riverbanks, motorways, laneways and grassy places, particularly in the lower half of the country.  At times reaching over 2 metres high, Hemlock bears its small white flowers (2-4cm across) in umbels of 10-20 rays in June and July.  The leaves are very pretty, long-stalked and up to 4 times divided into fine, feathery leaflets.  These leaves are of a lighter shade of green than those of Cow Parsley, a plant which is quite similar in many ways to Hemlock.  Another difference is that the Cow Parsley flowers a little earlier than Hemlock.  The major difference, however, is that the stem of Hemlock, which is hollow, is covered with purple blotches.  The plant also has an unpleasant smell.  This is a native wildflower and it belongs to the family Apiaceae. 

I first identified this plant at Wellingtonbridge, Co Wexford in 2009 when I also photographed it.   

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Hemlock is found in our folk medicine as a remedy for sprains:

'Hemlock and Marsh mallow boiled and then strained.  The affected part is to be rubbed with the liquid and a poultice made from the boiled leaves and applied afterwards.'

From the National Folklore Collection, UniversityCollegeDublin. NFC S. 36:247 From Laois.

Also known as 'Devil's Porridge', this highly toxic plant was used in Ancient Greece as the ingredient in a potion given to condemned prisoners.  One such was the philosopher, Socrates, who was executed for his impiety.  The poison was said to have crept up his body, gradually numbing it but keeping his brain alive until the moment when he passed away.  William Shakespeare also included it into the witches' brew in Macbeth.