When midsummer comes with the full force of July, and the moist places grow less moist and the dry places bake in the sun, the water hemlock blooms along the grassy, wet edges of ponds and swamps.
Cicuta maculata L.
Summer Swamps, ponds.
Water hemlock resembles that ancient plant, the poison hemlock, which grows in America as well as in Europe. In Greece Long ago the juice from the root of this plant was extracted and used as a deadly poison for executions of people of honor. It was the hemlock derived from the poisonous root of this plant which was given to Socrates in the year 399 B.C.
The root of water hemlock also is poisonous, but not as deadly as its kin, Conium, whose bitter potion the philosopher drank. Water hemlock grows about three to lour feet tall and is a bright dark green with slender branching stems. The leaves are abundant: it is a bushy plant. The leaves are compound and finely saw-toothed, and a- in other members of the Parsnip family, the flower umbels are borne at the tips of the leafy stems. The flowers are white, tiny, in separate head- in the spreading umble, and are slightly fragrant. It has a wide range. According to Gray, it is found from Newfoundland to Virginia, and west across the continent to the Mississippi. It has several other names, a point which is proof that the plant is common and widely known. Beaver poison is one of its names, or musquash root, or spotted cowbane. Apparently its poisonous root is dangerous to the incautious muskrats or heavers which dig them out.