Cicuta maculata L. - Water Hemlock

Cicuta maculata plant

Family - Apiaceae

Stems - To -2m tall, erect, herbaceous, glabrous, glaucous, fistulose, purplish at nodes, typically simple to branching, from a tuberous base and fleshy roots, single or multiple from base.

Cicuta maculata nodeNode of stem.

Leaves - Alternate, 2-3-pinnate. Lowest leaves long petiolate, to +60cm long(including petiole). Upper leaves with shorter petioles. Petioles with involute margin. Leaf divisions purple at axils. Ultimate leaflets serrate(the teeth mucronate), lanceolate, glabrous.

Cicuta maculata leaf

Inflorescence - Axillary and terminal compound umbels. Main rays of umbels not subtended by bracts, to -3cm long(in flower), +/-15 in number. Secondary rays(raylets) 5-6cm long(in flower), subtended by bracts. Bracts with scarious margins, to 3mm long, attenuate-lanceolate, glabrous.

Cicuta maculata inflorescence

Flowers - Petals 5, white, unequal to subequal, margins deflexed, to 1.3mm broad, 1.1mm long, apiculate and inflexed at apex. Stamens 5, alternating with petals, erect to spreading. Filaments white, 1.2mm long, glabrous. Anthers whitish, .2mm long. Ovary inferior, 2-locular. Styles 2, .1mm long. Calyx tube .9mm long, glabrous, 5-lobed. Lobes acute, scarious, .4-.5mm long. Fruits to +4mm long, oval to orbicular, glabrous.

Cicuta maculata flowersFlowers.

Flowering - May - September.

Habitat - Wet to moist areas.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This plant is one of the more toxic species of the Apiaceae or of any plant family for that matter. The plant has a pleasant licorice or anise scent when crushed but obviously it should not be eaten. It is easy to ID in the field because of its habitat, its glabrous and glaucous stems (which are purplish at the nodes), and its 2-3-pinnately divided leaves.
The Missouri plants are all variety maculata. A couple of other varieties are found in the U.S. but not in Missouri. The plant is common throughout Missouri.

Photographs taken off Hwy H, Shannon County, MO., 6-23-04.


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