ISSN 2398-2977      

Water Hemlock (Cicuta spp)

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Synonym(s): Cicuta douglasii, C. maculata, C. virosa, Spotted water hemlock, Cowbane, Poison parsnip, Beaver poison, Musquash root


Introduction

  • Water Hemlock is a hairless perennial, consisting of 7 species native to Europe and North America.
  • Found in marshy sites, eg irrigated meadows, streams and ditch banks.
  • The leaves are alternate, divided, leaflets 3-10 cm in length with toothed edges and veins that run to the leaf notches.
  • The flowers are small, white and produced in loose, umbrella-shaped terminal heads   Water Hemlock (Cicuta spp) 02  . 
  • The stems are hollow and partitioned, the partitions being compressed at the base of the stem.
  • Seeds are yellowish-brown, laterally flattened with distinct ribs.
  • Can grow up to 1-1.5 m tall.
  • All parts of the plant are toxic. The roots contain the highest concentration of toxin   Water Hemlock (Cicuta spp) 01  . The dried plant stems are relatively non-toxic.
  • Highly toxic to all animals including humans - fatal even if consumed in very small quantities.
  • Ensure removal of the plant from pastures. A single plant in a pasture poses a high risk to animals.
  • Most horses will avoid the plant unless grazing is particularly poor.
  • Water dropwort ( Oenanthe crocata) resembles water hemlock and is equally toxic.

Toxicity

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Clinical signs

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Diagnosis

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Treatment

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Prognosis

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Further Reading

Publications

Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Panter K E et al (1996) Water hemlock (Cicuta douglasii) toxicosis in sheep: pathologic description and prevetion of lesions and death. J Vet Diag Invest 8, 474-480.

Other sources of information

  • Knight A & Hall J (2004) The 10 Most Dangerous Plants for Horses. Equus 320, 71-81.
  • Allison K (1999) A Guide to Plants Poisonous to Horses. J A Allen & Co Ltd. ISBN: 0851316980.
  • Knight A P & Walter R G (2001) A guide to plant poisoning of animals in North America.Teton New Media, USA.
  • Burrows G E & Tyrl R J (2001) Toxic Plants of North America. Iowa State University Press, USA.
  • Cooper M R & Johnson A W (1998) Poisonous Plants and Fungi - An Illustrated Guide. The Stationery Office. ISBN: 0112429815.
  • Allison K & Day C (1997) A Guide to Plants Poisonous to Horses. British Association of Holistic Nutrition and Medicine.

Organization(s)

  • Cornell University - Poisonous Plants Informational Database. Website: www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants.
  • Guide to PoisonousPlants. Website: www.southcampus.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants.
  • ToxicologyOnline.com. Website: www.toxonline.com.
  • Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), London Center, Medical Toxicology Unit, Avonley Road, London SE14 5ER, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 7635 9195; Fax: +44 (0)20 7771 5309.
  • Veterinary Poisons Information Service (VPIS), Leeds Center, The General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK. Tel: +44 (0)113 245 0530; Fax: +44 (0)113 244 5849.

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