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Conium maculatum or Hemlock

Conium maculatum is also known as the Hemlock, Poison Hemlock, California Fern, St Benedict’s Herb, Shakeweed, Spotted Hemlock, Spotted Parsley, Spotted Corobane, Carrot Fern, Devil’s Bread, Devil’s Porridge, Winter Fern, Cashes, Herb Bennet, Poison Parsley, Nebraska Fern. Conium maculatum is native to the Mediterranean region in particular Europe and North Africa. Conium maculatum is part of the Apiaceae family of plants.

Conium maculatum
Conium maculatum

Conium maculatum is a herbaceous biennial plant. It can grow to 2.5m or 8ft tall. The plant is hairless and stems are streaked with red on the lower part of it. It has lacy foliage that is divided and triangular in its shape.

Conium maculatum
Conium maculatum

Conium maculatum flowers are small and white and have five petals. They appear as clusters. Though Conium maculatum is similar to wild carrots it grows twice as tall as the wild carrot. Each flower develops into a green, fruit that contains several seeds. The roots of Conium maculatum are very similar to a parsnip.

Conium maculatum
Conium maculatum at Regent’s Park, London, UK

It usually grows in poorly drained soil and near water. It dislikes acid soil and heavy shade. It can be propagated by seed. All part of Conium maculatum is poisonous as they contain coniine and g-coniceine. Conium maculatum was used in ancient Greece to poison condemned prisoners. According to Plato, Socrates was also killed by Conium maculatum after he was accused and sentenced to death.

Conium maculatum
Conium maculatum

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I am a flower enthusiast and a gardener at heart. Ever since childhood I loved reading about plants and started gardening at an early age. First by helping my father in the garden and later managing a large garden myself in my teen years. I planted and cared for a large number of plants, flowers, and trees both outdoors and in a greenhouse. To this day I enjoy visiting gardens and parks and learning about new and old specimens and varieties of plants.

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