Florida's Most Poisonous Flower
So beautiful, and so deadly.
Perhaps Florida's deadliest native plant.
Spotted Water Hemlock
In abundant supply this summer due to adequate rainfall hemlock is found in swamps and along any body of water.
Florida Hemlock is
* highly-branched, with hollow stems
*large umbels of small white flowers
*double or triple compound leaves
Hemlock is one of the most toxic plants. All parts are poisonous but the roots and stems of hemlock concentrate the toxins making them the most dangerous parts of the plant. Both roots and stems often resemble rhubarb with purplish coloring or stripes.
Florida's hemlock is closely related to the hemlock used to execute Socrates.
These images were made in an undisturbed swamp west of the Turnbull Hammock Conservation Area near Oak Hill, Florida.
Water hemlock is usually a large, highly branched plant growing to 8 feet tall in wet meadows, swamps, and shoreline thickets. However, they can be medium-sized, scraggly plants growing in floating mats of vegetation.
Hemlock occurs throughout Florida and flowers in the spring and summer. Water hemlock grows large, dome-shaped umbels of flowers. An umbel is made of many small flowers that are all attached, more or less, at the same point.
The flowers are tiny, white, and have 5 petals. The flower umbels are in long stalks that grow from leaf axles at the tips of the stems.
Hemlock leaves are large and double- or triple-compound. A triple-compound leaf has leaflets that make up larger leaflets, that make up even larger leaflets, that make up an entire leaf. These compound leaves are often a foot or more long and 2 feet wide.
The compound leaves are alternately arranged on the stem. The leaflets of hemlock are lance-shaped and have coarse teeth around their margins.
In this image a native vine overtakes the hemlock plant perhaps confusing the identification of the plant.
The stem of the hemlock plant is fleshy and hollow. It usually has purple stripes. Many species of aquatic plants have large clusters of white flowers. Some of these plants are considered edible. However, some, such as the water hemlock, are extremely toxic to humans and animals, and can cause death. Because these plants are easily confused, in Florida it is best to avoid all aquatic plants that have large clusters of white flowers.