online gardening course shanleya's quest dairy farming permaculture tees home medicine 101
Permies likes wild harvesting and the farmer likes Do I have water hemlock? permies
  Search | Permaculture Wiki | Recent Topics | Flagged Topics | Hot Topics | Zero Replies | World Domination!
Register / Login
permies » forums » wilderness » wild harvesting
Bookmark "Do I have water hemlock?" Watch "Do I have water hemlock?" New topic

Do I have water hemlock?


Joined: May 24, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Pennsylvania, Zone 5B
Hi all,

I've been lurking for a while. This isn't a very permaculture question, but you all seem to have such knowledge about everything plants that I thought I'd try this.

This is growing all over the edge of my yard that I just moved to:

I live in central PA near State College. This stuff has formed a thick ground cover on the southwest side of the yard under the shade of some bushes and where it gets a bit wet in the spring. No standing water though. The flowers get 3-4 feet tall.

I've read a lot of descriptions about water hemlock, and it all matches save for two points. First, the leaf veins don't end in the notches of the leaf which is an easily identifying characteristic of water hemlock. Second, I can't find any hollow spaces in the roots. The stems are hollow though at the bottom.

So I figure it's related but I'd still like to know where I have a giant patch of death or something harmless that I can at least compost or something. Don't worry, I'm not going to be making soup of out this one. 

Joined: May 24, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Pennsylvania, Zone 5B
Just wanted to say that I asked on reddit in the gardening section and came up with ground elder! Looks just like it! Still not going to eat it!
Steven Baxter

Joined: Mar 22, 2011
Posts: 254
Flowers definitely look like hemlock, and the purple you describe on the stem is also an indicator of hemlock

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
what you have is certainly an umbelifereae, which both water hemlock and ground elder are members of,as are cow parsely, carrots,  fennel and queen annes lace. some yum, some sorta or even very poisonous. your leaves DO NOT look like water hemlock im familiar with, but you are half a continent away and may have local morphology I havent seen. regardless, do a search for local Ky. plants in the Umbelliferae family (also called apiaceae by modern revisionists! find a Key to your area ( I would bet a university has one availabe online) and youll find your friend there. almost gauranteed to be good insectory. might be fair eating as well. angelica falls into that group if I recollect...
Amber Westfall

Joined: May 26, 2011
Posts: 13
Location: Ottawa
I'm pretty sure that what you've got is the edible plant goutweed, ground elder or Aegopodium podagraria.  I note the 'mitten-like' appearance of the leaves in the picutres you posted.  Other distinguishing characteristics can be found here:

Water hemlock can grow from 3-6ft high, goutweed from 1-3ft.  Water hemlock has a white bloom on the stalk which can be easily wiped off.  In my experience, goutweed does not have this. A good descriptions of water hemlock here:

I find that goutweed has a noticeable celery-like scent to the stalks.  It tastes just like celery too, but it's not as palatable once it flowers.  This year I dried a bunch of it and added it to salt, for a lovely seasoning.  If you still aren't certain- and the umbelliferae family can be really tricky- stick with eating the variegated kind of goutweed if you have it.  There's no mistaking that one! 

More on goutweed:

"Forgive me if I never visit. I am from the fields, you know, and while quite at home with dandelion, make a sorry figure for the drawing room" ~Emily Dickinson

Joined: May 24, 2011
Posts: 43
Location: Pennsylvania, Zone 5B
Yep I'm 95% sure that's just what it is. It's just the plain old green variety, not the variegated. I've been told everything from eat it to light it all on fire (it's pretty opportunistic, definitely overwhelmed the periwinkle that was planted there). I still don't think I have the cojones to try eating it  Same thing with white mushrooms or autumn brown mushrooms.

Joined: Mar 10, 2011
Posts: 22
Water Hemlock grows everywhere here in Florida. That is not Water Hemlock. Water hemlock has a unique characteristic in the fact that the veins of the leaf run between the teeth and not to the point.
subject: Do I have water hemlock?