Poison hemlock widespread in Pennsylvania, dangerous for humans & animals

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CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Poison hemlock is an invasive species, currently at its peak bloom, along highways, waterways, and in pastures.

What may look like a tall, delicate white flower, packs a potentially deadly punch.

“It can cause different types of muscular paralysis and respiratory failure.”

Dwight Lingenfelter, Penn State Extension Associate in Weed Science.

History buffs may know the plant in relation to Socrates.

“He was given the option of his demise, and he chose to drink tea that had poison hemlock in it,” Lingenfelter said.

The plant has a musty smell and can smell like parsley when crushed. Consuming it, however, has significant effects on humans, wild animals, and pets.

If you find it in your yard, you can remove it with a shovel, but be sure to wear gloves and long pants.

“Some people are sensitive to the saps of the plants, it actually can cause some dermatitis or some skin blistering,” said Lingenfelter. “Especially if you’re weed whacking it, for example, to make sure that you have pants, not shorts, cause you get the sap all over your legs and shins and it can cause some irritation.” 

Because of the potential dangers, Pennsylvania residents are encouraged to keep an eye out for the white flowers with purple spotted stems this summer.

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