A toxic invasive species that can be deadly if eaten is spreading, wrecking havoc across parks, flower beds and backyard gardens.
Poison hemlock, which resembles Queen Anne’s Lace, can be spotted in highway right-of-ways, along fences and on the edges of farm fields. In just the last year, however, the plant that was originally brought to the U.S. from Europe has migrated near more populated areas, which has experts concerned.
“That movement is a bit scary to me because this plant is very toxic and it’s more of an opportunity for kids to play with it and pets to eat it,” said Dan Shaver with Indiana’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It is not a plant you want around your home or in your local park.”
The toxic biennial can be found in nearly every state in the U.S., according to the National Park Service.
This is the time of year that poison hemlock spreads and grows its footprint. Each plant produces a lot of seeds — up to 30,000 — that ripen between late June and August after it flowers. Those seeds are easily scattered during late summer mowing, Shaver said.
It loves to find those little pockets that are unmanaged, whether that’s a street corner not getting mowed or a pollinator habitat growing wild in a neighborhood.
Poison hemlock also does well in moist soil conditions, Shaver said. So with the wet springs the Midwest has seen, it’s been the perfect environment for the toxic plant to explode.
“It just hit this exponential rate…