Poison hemlock springing up in Jefferson County
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Jefferson County Noxious Weed Coordinator Eve Dixon pulls some poison hemlock from the roadside on Sims Way in Port Townsend.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — As spring begins to bud on the North Olympic Peninsula, Jefferson County's authority on weeds has urged residents to pull out the poison that may be in their gardens.

“Poison hemlock is common and can be seen along any roadside and in people's gardens,” said Jefferson Noxious Weed Coordinator Eve Dixon on Wednesday.

“I suggest that people pull them now while the plants are small and the roots are loose, as it becomes much harder in the summertime.”

The weed's bright-green fern-like leaves and delicate white flowers make it quite attractive, Dixon said.

It can resemble a common garnish, being mistaken for edible members of the parsley family. It also can be confused with parsnip and anise.

Yet it contains five volatile alkaloids chemically related to nicotine, toxins used in ancient times to put condemned men to death — Socrates, for instance.

Dixon said all parts of the plant are toxic. While it is most dangerous when ingested, people should neither touch the plant directly nor inhale its scent.

She said the plant can be distinguished from other plants in two ways: It has no “hair” at all — the leaves and stem are completely smooth — and the stem has distinctive purple blotches.

Dixon encourages neighborhood groups to get together to pull weeds.

Her agency can help with plant identification, loaning tools and organizing groups.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/bmmtnq2; phone 360-379-5610, ext. 205; or email noxiousweeds@co.jefferson.wa.us.



Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 20. 2013 5:56PM
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