12 Plants that look like Poison Hemlock- [with pictures]

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Hey readers, have you ever thought of studying look-alike plants? There are so many plants in our surroundings that look alike to each other. Among them, the poison hemlock plant is such a plant that also has many look-alike plants.

All of those plants such as poison hemlock, hogweed, meadow rue, parsnip etc. are identically almost the same with their visual appearance having very slight differences that people may think of them as the same plant. All the plants have the same types of flowers and the plants also seem almost the same if we see them all of a sudden.

Though the plants are similar to each other, they should not be confused. So, we are here with the article trying to give a clear concept which is about the plants that look like the poison hemlock.

What is poison hemlock?

The poison hemlock is a highly poisonous herbaceous and flowering plant in the Apiaceae family. The poison hemlock produces small and white flowers that are loosely clustered in an umbrella shape and each flower has five petals. Normally, it grows 5–8 feet tall and exceptionally 12 feet. It has a smooth, green, hairless and hollow stem which is generally spotted with red or, purple color. Again, The leaves are lacy, divided, two to four pinnate and overall triangular shape. The leaves are up to 20 inches long and 16 inches wide.

Poison hemlock stem
Poison hemlock stem
Poison hemlock leaf
Poison hemlock leaf

Why is the poison hemlock named so?

The plants are called poison hemlock as all the parts of the plant, especially the seeds and the roots are toxic when they are eaten. Even the dead canes of this plant remain toxic for up to 3 years. Again, it is acutely toxic to people and animals and the symptoms appear 20 minutes to 3 hours after consumption.

How does the poison hemlock harm the human body?

When the plant is only touched with hands, it can generate a painful rash. Again a painful burning can also be felt in the eyes if they get contacted. Besides, It can be deadly if they are eaten and the general symptoms are seen as the effects on the nervous system, vomiting, trembling, problems in movement, rapid respiration, paralysis, nausea, coma and even death.

Plants that look like poison hemlock

The poison hemlock plant is often confused with some of the plants as they are all very much similar concerning their visual appearances such as the inflorescence of flowers, the nature of the stem etc. The plants that look like poison hemlock are given below.

  • Queen Anne’s Lace.
  • Common yarrow.
  • Angelica.
  • Elderflower.
  • Osha or, porter’s lovage.
  • Tall meadow rue.
  • Common meadow rue.
  • Common hogweed.
  • Giant hogweed.
  • Cow Parsnip.
  • Wild parsnip.
  • Spotted water hemlock.

Queen Anne’s lace

The poison hemlock can be mistaken for Queen Anne’s Lace plant which is also a wild plant. But sometimes they are eaten as they are herbaceous. Queen Anne’s lace grows 1-4 ft tall and roughly hairy with a stiff and solid stem. The leaves are tripinnate, finely divided, lacy, triangular and up to 2–6 inches long. The flowers are small, dull white and flattened clustered in a dense umbrella shape. The flowers may also be pink or, reddish or purple in the bud. The fruits are small, dry, bumpy, oval and flattened.

Queen anne_s lace_
Queen anne_s lace_

How is Queen Anne’s Lace different from the poison hemlock?

Fortunately, there are some basic differences. Poison hemlock is taller than queen Anne’s lace and smells disgusting while Queen Anne’s Lace smells just like a carrot. In addition, the stem of the Queen Anne’s Lace is hairy while the stem of the poison hemlock is hairless and smooth. Besides, the poison hemlock is deadly toxic if they are eaten whereas Queen Anne’s lace is eaten sometimes.

Common yarrow

Yarrow is a smaller plant that is much similar to poison hemlock to look as their flowers are very much similar. But the biggest difference that yarrow has from poison hemlock is its feather-like leaves. Again the flowers also look a bit different, as yarrow is not in the Apiaceae family and does not have a true umbel flower.

Common yarrow plant_
Common yarrow plant


Angelica is a tall biennial and perennial herb in the family Apiaceae. They grow to 3 ft 3 inch to 9 ft 10 inch tall, with large bipinnate leaves. Angelica has similar-looking flowers to poison hemlock, but those of angelica are more rounded and sometimes light green. The leaves of angelica are much larger and compound with dozens of leaflets. Besides, the most noticeable feature of angelica is its pleasantly fragrant scent.

Angelica flower
Angelica flower
angelica leaf
angelica leaf


Elderflower is the same plant from which the elderberries come. The identification becomes easier when an elderflower starts to bloom. They produce large umbels of small creamy white flowers and each individual has five rounded-tipped petals and five stamens protruding. Besides, before blooming, their leaves and stems help to identify them. The leaves are green, finely toothed and lance-shaped with lighter veins. Again, the young plants have green stems and as they grow older, their stems will cover with bark.

Elderflower plant
Elderflower plant
Elderflower leaf
Elderflower leaf

Are elderflowers harmful to the human body?

No. Actually, it could be more useful. The extract of its flower is used to make medicine used for sinusitis, colds, influenza, swine flu, bronchitis, diabetes and constipation. Again, it can also stop bleeding. The elderflower extracts are also used in making perfume, eye lotion and skin lotion.

Osha or porter’s lovage

Osha plant belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is also called porter’s lovage or, wild celery. It is a tall and broadly branching perennial plant that grows up to 3 feet tall. Besides, it has large, divided and fern-like leaves with long thin hollow stalks that smell like spicy celery. These leaves can be up to 2 ft long. The Osha flowers are white in color and bloom at the top of the plant and spread out in the form of an umbrella.

Osha plant
Osha plant

Tall meadow rue

Tall meadow rue belongs to the buttercup family named Ranunculaceae. It is also called the king of meadow plants with hollow stems as it can be up to 8 feet long. The stem is initially green and later gets purple and is mostly smooth. Besides, the leaves are green, hairy on the underside and 3 to 5 times compound with Leaflets that are about 1 inch long, shallowly lobed in 2 or, 3 parts and asymmetrical at the rounded base. Again, the flowers are without petals, feathery white, starry and arranged in flower clusters.

Tall meadow rue plant
Tall meadow rue plant

Common meadow rue

Common meadow rue is slightly different from the tall meadow plant reaching 2-3 feet in height and the leaves are 2 or 3 pinnate having leaflets that are oblong wedge-shaped and lobed into 3 or, 4 parts. Besides, the flowers are fluffy, creamy yellow in dense panicles and stamens erect. So, it is also called yellow meadow rue. It is often used as attractive foliage in cottage garden also.

Common meadow rue flower_
Common meadow rue flower
Common meadow rue leaf
Common meadow rue leaf

Cow parsnip

The poison hemlock can also be confused with harmless cow parsnip. Cow parsnip is a tall herbaceous perennial plant. Sometimes, it is also called a giant hogweed plant. It can grow up to 10 feet and the stems are hollow and densely hairy. Again, the leaves are very large up to 20 inches across and divided into three lobes. It also produces small white flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters with five petals with notched tips in each flower. The fruits are flattened, ribbed, and hairy and can be split into two individual seeds. They are initially bright green and they darken to brown when ripe.

Cow parsnip_
Cow parsnip

Is cow parsnip dangerous to health?

The cow parsnip is not considered to be as toxic as poison hemlock. But it causes a burning sensation in the eye and different sensitive parts of the body. Besides, it takes weeks or, months to heal them and can also leave scars on the skin. In addition, if the plant touches your skin, immediately wash the area with soap and water properly and protect it from sunlight for 48 hours.

Wild parsnip

Wild parsnip is also a biennial/perennial herb. It looks and smells quite like cow parsnip. The plant typically can grow up to 5 feet tall. It has hollow stems with smooth and cylindrical roots. The leaves are like rosettes of broad, hairless, ovate, compound pinnate, up to 6 inches in length and terminating with several pairs of leaflets. Besides, the flowers are slightly the same as the cow parsnip but unlike them, it produces small yellow flowers in umbrella-shaped clusters with five petals in each flower.

Wild parsnip plant
Wild parsnip plant
Wild parsnip leaf_
Wild parsnip leaf

How does wild parsnip differ from cow parsnip?

The main differences between cow parsnips and wild parsnips are seen in their flowers and leaves. Cow parsnips have white flowers while wild parsnips have yellow flowers. Again, the leaves of cow parsnips look like an open palm whereas those of wild parsnips look oblong. But once the two parsnips start to turn to seed, people can confuse them because both of the flower colors begin to fade.

Spotted water hemlock

Spotted water hemlock is also a perennial toxic herb having a hollow stem and it can reach up to 6 feet long. The leaves are large up to 16 inches and they are made up of several lance-shaped, pointed, shiny and serrated leaflets that are up to 4 inches long. Like all the other plants in this family, the inflorescence of their white flowers is almost similar to their outer look. But the flower is a compound umbel with many clusters of flowers.

Spotted water hemlock
Spotted water hemlock
Spotted water hemlock leaf
Spotted water hemlock leaf

Why are spotted water hemlocks called so? 

The plants are called so as they prefer wet habitats such as wet meadows, roadside ditches, pond margins, river sides, open marshes and freshwater swamps the most. Again like other hemlock plants, they contain some pink or, redfish color spots on the stem.

How does spotted water hemlock differ from poison hemlock?

The spotted water hemlock is a perennial that produces a cluster of fleshy tubers at the crown of the flower whereas the poison hemlock doesn’t. Besides, the leaflets of the spotted water hemlock are smaller than poison hemlock and are also not finely divided like the poison hemlock. Again, the stems of spotted water hemlock are not spotted with purple color like the poison hemlock stem.

Final thoughts

Gradually, I reached the end of my article. Finally, we can see that all the plants are very confusing when we see them individually. They are similar, but not the same and so they have different needs and characteristics. From the entire discussion, let’s recap what we get from this article.

  • Poison hemlock seems to look alike some popular edible and herbaceous plants like Queen Anne’s Lace, cow parsnips, angelica, meadow rue etc.
  • But some are deadly to humans like poison hemlock or, spotted water hemlock and some are useful like Queen Anne’s Lace. This is the reason that it is necessary to learn how to identify each look-alike plant.
  • Most importantly it is a must to identify the poison hemlock properly as they are often mistaken for other edible and medicinal plants most notably Queen Anne’s Lace. Because if it is not identified correctly, it can be deadly. 

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