Written by Ivy
Mar 28 2023
Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace are two plants that are often mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance. However, while Queen Anne's Lace is a harmless and even beneficial wildflower, Poison Hemlock is a deadly plant that can cause serious harm to humans and animals. In this article, we will compare and contrast these two plants and highlight the differences between them.
Both Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace belong to the Apiaceae family, also known as the carrot family. They are both tall, herbaceous plants with clusters of small white flowers that bloom in the summer. However, there are some key differences in their appearance.
Poison Hemlock has a thick, hairless stem that can grow up to 10 feet tall. The stem is often purple-spotted or streaked, and has a distinctive musty odor. The leaves of Poison Hemlock are deeply divided and fern-like, with a shiny appearance. The flowers of Poison Hemlock are small, white, and clustered into umbrella-shaped heads.
Queen Anne's Lace, on the other hand, has a much thinner and smoother stem that grows up to 4 feet tall. The stem is often green with occasional purple spots, and does not have a strong odor. The leaves of Queen Anne's Lace are finely divided and feathery, with a duller appearance than Poison Hemlock. The flowers of Queen Anne's Lace are also small and white, but they are arranged in a flat-topped cluster rather than an umbrella shape.
One of the most significant differences between Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace is their toxicity. While Queen Anne's Lace is not poisonous and is often used in herbal remedies and as a food source for wildlife, Poison Hemlock is one of the deadliest plants in the world.
Poison Hemlock contains a potent toxin called coniine, which affects the nervous system and can cause respiratory failure, paralysis, and death. The toxin is most concentrated in the seeds and roots of the plant, but all parts of the plant, including the leaves and stems, are toxic. Ingesting even a small amount of Poison Hemlock can be fatal, and contact with the sap or plant can cause skin irritation and other symptoms.
Despite its deadly nature, Poison Hemlock has been used for medicinal and other purposes throughout history. In ancient Greece, it was used as a sedative and anesthetic, and was reportedly used to poison Socrates. It has also been used to treat epilepsy, menstrual cramps, and other ailments.
Queen Anne's Lace, on the other hand, is a useful and beneficial plant. It is often used in herbal remedies to treat various conditions, including digestive issues, respiratory problems, and menstrual cramps. It is also a popular ornamental plant and is often used in wildflower gardens and floral arrangements.
Another key difference between Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace is their impact on the environment. Poison Hemlock is an invasive species that can quickly spread and take over natural habitats, displacing native plants and reducing biodiversity. It is especially problematic in wetland areas, where it can choke out other vegetation and alter the ecosystem.
Queen Anne's Lace, on the other hand, is a native species that is an important source of food and habitat for a variety of wildlife, including butterflies, bees, and birds. It is also a valuable plant for soil conservation, as its deep root system helps to prevent erosion and improve soil quality.
In conclusion, Poison Hemlock and Queen Anne's Lace may look similar, but they are very different plants. Poison Hemlock is a deadly plant that should be avoided at all costs, while the poison hemlock umbel is more rounded than the flat-topped umbrella of Queen Anne's Lace. Look at the distinction below.
The presence of 3-pronged bracts at the main umbel as well as the base of the flowering stems is a final characteristic that sets Queen Anne's lace apart. It is the only member of the family Apaiceae with this trait. You can see that poison hemlock lacks the long bracts if you look at the image of the plant's flowers under the image below on the right.
Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to recognize both plants if you come across them in the wild. Also, if you can, spread the word about this. Someone close to you or your pet's life could be saved.
Most people won't have an issue if they come in contact with Queen Anne's lace, but those who have sensitive skin may experience rashes or blistering, according to the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service. However, some people and animals may become toxic after ingesting plant parts.
Furanocoumarins and nitrates are the main toxic substances found in false Queen Anne's lace plants. These harmful substances make cats more sensitive to light, which can result in exudative and ulcerative dermatitis or photosensitization.
If plant juices contact skin and the skin is then exposed to sunlight (specifically ultraviolet light), severe blistering can occur, as well as skin discoloration that may last several months.