Horse bane , dead mans fingers
One of the things I’ve noticed I’m missing from my writing is probably the most important thing to learn with any wild food and foraging “what not to eat ” and the nastys that hide amongst our favourite wild edibles .
The first dangerous plant that I ever learnt was hemlock water drop wort and that not because it is one of the most poisonous plants around or that after eating you will have about three hours before you meet your maker but because it is so easy to get it mixed up with some of the most favoured edible plants we look for as foragers ( Alexander’s , wild parsnip ,celery ) .
To be fair it is generally mistaken for celery with the stems and leaves and wild parsnip with the roots more than any other similar plant .
Water drop wort is a member of a group of plants called Apiaceae or Umbelliferae most commonly known as the carrot family .
You will find hemlock water drop wort in damp , wet ground and slow flowing water such as drainage ditches . As regards to identification it has a tubular stem which is smooth not hairy with a grove running up the length the roots are bunched tubers which are generally quite plump and if broken or cut the liquid will stain the skin a yellow colour ,infact it’s the tubers that are the most poisonous part of the plant as they produce a toxic poison called Oenanthotoxin which the plant produces late winter to early spring but retains it all year long one single piece of any of the root is enough to kill an adult human and a whole single tuber would kill a cow ( scary ) .
The leaves are a luscious green larger at the base of the plant turning smaller towards the top and look very much like parsley to me ,
The easiest bit for me to identify is the umbell which is groups of cylindrical flower heads ranging from white to pale cream ,
The conclusion of getting this plant wrong is a coin toss with the losing being , three to four hours of excruciating pain , vomiting and convulsions and then death , the plus side being the same symptoms but over ten to twenty days and probably with on going health issues ,