People have died from eating all parts of Hemlock water dropwort!
Hemlock water dropwort is a member of the Apiaceae (Carrot) family. Which contains some very toxic plants.
It is considered the most toxic plant growing in Britain.
It contains a powerful neurotoxin called oenanthetoxin, which triggers spasmodic convulsions, usually followed by sudden death.
Height: Tall and robust up to 1.5 metre.
Leaves: 3 to 4 either oval, lobed or toothed and in the same arrangement as a feather (pinnate).
The leaf stalk (petiole) is attached to the flower stem by a sheath.
Stems: Hairless, grooved and hollow.
Flowers are clustered in distinct umbels (they look like pom-poms).
Habitat: Found around lakes, marshy ground, ponds, along the waters-edge of rivers and river banks.
Flowers: Between May and August.
Lookalikes: Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Wild celery (Apium graveolens), Narrow leaved water-parsnip (Berula erecta) and River Water-dropwort (Oenanthe fluviatilis).
It is a tuberous perennial plant that resembles celery with roots like a bunch of large white carrots.
The highest concentration of toxic properties is in the roots. Then the stems and finally the leaves.
The toxin seems able to enter the body through the skin, so care should be exercised when handling it, particularly any sap.
Be very careful when handling the leaves as there are reports that the toxin can enter the body through the skin. Be especially careful if you get sap on you.