Poison Hemlock is an invasive weed species that is commonly found in wetland areas and near streams and rivers. It is poisonous if ingested and can cause a painful rash if handled. Poison Hemlock is prevalent in El Paso county. Anyone visiting an area with water is advised to be on the lookout for this plant.
Teach your children what it looks like and caution them to stay away from it. Children who cannot distinguish this plant from others should avoid these areas entirely. If you think you have come into contact with Poison Hemlock, it is recommended that you immediately wash off your skin with soap and lukewarm water, being careful not to touch your face or eyes. If you are attempting to remove Poison Hemlock, it is strongly recommended that you wear eye protection, disposable gloves, and clothing that covers all skin.
Poison Hemlock is a biennial, meaning it lives for two years. The first year it grows low and bushy, and the second year it flowers and produces seed, growing 4 to 8 ft. tall. In its first year, the plant resembles a carrot top, or parsley. In its second year, the most distinguishing characteristic is purple splotches and spots on the stems. The best way to prevent the spread of Hemlock is to prevent second-year plants from producing seed.
Poison Hemlock is known to grow in Dirty Woman Creek Park. Mitigation is persistent and ongoing, as each year seeds are brought into the park via the wind and creek flow from growth upstream. Mitigation efforts are complicated by a need to preserve the section of the park that is a designated habitat for a protected species, the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse. This area is delineated by a split-rail fence and is closed to the public. Native willows grow thick in this area, making it difficult to treat the Hemlock growing sporadically within. This area of the park contains the highest number of Hemlock plants. For your safety, as well as to comply with state regulations, the public and their pets should stay out of this area. Another area of concern is the northeast corner of the park, near the railroad tracks. Hemlock growing there is regularly treated. Visitors to the park should pay attention to signage and avoid any areas that warn of Poison Hemlock.
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