spotted water hemlock

(Cicuta maculata)

spotted water hemlock

Cicuta maculata, commonly known as spotted water hemlock, is a highly toxic plant species found in North America. It belongs to the Apiaceae family and is closely related to other poisonous plants such as poison hemlock and cowbane.

The plant typically grows in wet habitats such as marshes, swamps, and along riverbanks.


All parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, leaves, and flowers, contain the toxin cicutoxin, which is a potent convulsant that affects the central nervous system. Ingestion of even a small amount of the plant can cause severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, seizures, respiratory failure, and death. It is considered one of the most toxic plants in North America.


Spotted water hemlock is a perennial herb that can grow up to 6 feet tall. It has hollow stems with purple blotches and compound leaves that are divided into several leaflets. The flowers are small and white, arranged in umbrella-shaped clusters at the top of the stem. The radial veins of each leaflet extend to the notches in the leaflet margin, not to the tips of the teeth as in other members of the carrot family.

There are four currently recognized varieties of spotted water hemlock. They are distinguished by the shape of the leaves, by the toothed leaf margins, and by characteristics of the fruits. The leaf characteristics intergrade completely between the varieties. To reliably distinguish between the varieties, it is important to closely examine ripe fruit.


Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 22, 24, 28, 29, 30.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Apiales (carrots, ivies, and allies)  
  Suborder Apiineae  


Apiaceae (carrot)  
  Subfamily Apioideae  
  Tribe Oenantheae  


Cicuta (water hemlocks)  

Subordinate Taxa


Bolander’s water hemlock (Cicuta maculata var. bolanderi)

common water hemlock (Cicuta maculata var. maculata)

spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata var. angustifolia)

Victorin’s water hemlock (Cicuta maculata var. victorinii)






Common Names


common water hemlock


poison parsnip

spotted cowbane

spotted parsley

spotted waterhemlock

spotted water-hemlock












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    spotted water hemlock   spotted water hemlock  
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Young stems are especially toxic

    spotted water hemlock   spotted water hemlock  



  Cicuta maculata WATER HEMLOCK
Frank Mayfield
  Cicuta maculata WATER HEMLOCK  



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Other Videos
  Environmental Laboratory - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Environmental Laboratory USACE

Published on Feb 15, 2013

Cicuta maculata - Western Water Hemlock

  Identifying Water Hemlock
Saskatchewan Agriculture

Uploaded on Nov 15, 2011

Regional Forage Specialist Al Foster discusses identifying water hemlock . Often when springs are dry the greenest part of a pasture is the areas around sloughs and along creeks. These green areas become preferred grazing sites for cattle. Unfortunately these low-lying areas sometimes contain water hemlock, a poisonous native plant.

  Hidden Florida's Deadly Plant Identification: Water Hemlock
Hidden Florida

Published on Dec 15, 2012

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  water hemlock / spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata syn. C. curtissii, C. mexicana)

Uploaded on May 20, 2010

Aquatic and Invasive Plant Identification Series by the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants ( ) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Invasive Plant Management Section.

For more information about water hemlock, go to

Video editor/videographer - Phil Chiocchio

  Water Hemlock Lesson

Published on Jul 3, 2014





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Anna Gronseth Prairie

Banning State Park

Beaver Creek Valley State Park

Blackhoof River WMA

Blazing Star Prairie

Butternut Valley Prairie SNA

Camden State Park

Cedar Rock SNA

Charles A. Lindbergh State Park

Compass Prairie SNA

Cottonwood River Prairie SNA

Des Moines River SNA

Flandrau State Park

Foxhome Prairie

Glacial Lakes State Park

Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie

Holthe Prairie SNA

Hythecker Prairie SNA

Iron Horse Prairie SNA

Iron Springs Bog SNA

Joseph A. Tauer Prairie SNA

Kettledrummer Prairie

La Salle Lake SNA

Lake Alexander Woods SNA, South Unit

Lake Bronson State Park

Lake Louise State Park

Langhei Prairie SNA

Lester Lake SNA

Malmberg Prairie SNA

Margherita Preserve-Audubon Prairie

Mille Lacs Moraine SNA

Miller Prairie, West Unit

Mound Spring Prairie SNA, North Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Hoffman Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Pavia Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Spieker Unit

Northern Tallgrass Prairie NWR, Touch the Sky Prairie Unit

Otter Tail Prairie SNA

Pankratz Memorial Prairie, North Unit

Pembina Trail Preserve SNA, Pembina Trail Unit

Plover Prairie, East Unit

Prairie Coteau SNA

Quarry Park SNA

Racine Prairie SNA

Red Rock Prairie

Regal Meadow

Ripley Esker SNA

Roscoe Prairie SNA

Sand Prairie Wildlife Management and Environmental Education Area

Sandpiper Prairie SNA

Santee Prairie SNA

Savage Fen SNA

Sedan Brook Prairie SNA

Seminary Fen SNA

Seven Sisters Prairie

Sheepberry Fen

Shooting Star Prairie SNA

Sibley State Park

Spring Lake Regional Park

Spring Prairie Preserve

Thorson Prairie WMA

Tribute WMA

Twin Valley Prairie Addition

Twin Valley Prairie SNA

Two Rivers Aspen Prairie Parkland SNA

Tympanuchus Prairie

Wahpeton Prairie WMA

Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Woodbury WMA







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