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Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) vs Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum)

 
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Location: Snowbird Nomad - East Cost USA
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Wild carrot is an edible with many small fragrant flowers grouped into clusters. Which, by the way, if you let a regular carrot bolt during the summer, they will have flowers just like this (to my knowledge). It is distinguished by it's hairy stem.
Poison hemlock is a toxic plant which, to the untrained eye, appears similar to Wild carrot.
The leaves are too simalar to be a distinguishing factor, I used flowers and seedheads in this case instead.
The hemlock seedhead:

The carrot seedhead:

Now the flowers, Carrot:

Hemlock:

Note: the hemlock doesn't have a hairy stem.
 
master pollinator
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Be careful about even touching Poison Hemlock.  I got contact dermatitis from it which resulted in scarring.  Very bad stuff.

https://beehabitat.com/2018/02/poison-hemlock-rash/
 
gardener
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I have known a number of serious wildcrafters and foragers who simply refuse to collect, use, or teach any of the plants that look similar to poison hemlock.  In their view, the beneficial uses of these plants are not important enough to outweigh the risks of a mistaken identification.  So they simply stay away from all of the visual cognates of poison hemlock, nor do they engage on the question with their students and trainees who are not trained botanists, because, per Alexander Pope:

"A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."




It's a perspective worth considering, I think.
 
pollinator
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The second to last picture shows one of the most obvious differences, and those are the centre flower in the carrot, not all wild carrots have that pink flower but hemlock never does. and the bracts (the green under the flower) no other white flowered umbelifer has those three forked bracts.

Another really obvious difference (although not always present) is that hemlock grows BIG up to 8ft and at maturity is rarely under 4ft whereas carrot is not often over 2ft tall. together with very different flowers, a lack of hairy stems and purple mottling on the stem especially at leaf nodes it is not that easy to confuse the hemlock for carrot, but as always if you are not confident do not pick it that especially goes for young specimens.

As an aside eating wild carrot leaves is not advisable if you are pregnant or trying to be so (they are an abortifacient ), and wild carrot can also cause contact dermatitis (as do cultivated parsnips and hogweed which of course are also both edible)
 
garden master
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The height that the Queen Anne's Lace flowers grow to has a lot to do with its' growing conditions. The drier and more compacted the soil, the shorter the stalks. Once the soil has had the chance to improve, the plant grows better. On the sloped hilly roadsides, in my region, the plants stick to about 2 feet in height. Along the edges of agriculture feilds, near a drainage ditch, 4 foot tall is the norm. These are sections that are blocked from being mown by trees, or other obsticles. Lots of biomass has been here.


The first year, in my garden, Carrot flowers barely hit 2 feet tall. Now, they routinely attain 5 feet tall. I have not observed any difference between wild and domesticated  carrot flowers.


I was harvesting and using Queen Anne's Lace for 4 years before seeing my first Hemlock. And I recognized it at 40 miles an hour, 30 feet from the road. Of course, I stopped to confirm up close.  The structure of the plants are VERY different. Once you know your garden carrots well, mixing it up with anything else is hard. If I sense any waffling in my subconsiosness, (You know, spidey sences!) I won't harvest from that area.

 
steward
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I'm wondering what part of wild carrot is considered edible? The roots are small and fibrous. The leaves taste horrid. I don't eat domestic carrot seed. The hairy stems only occur after the plant has already reached the extra fibrous flowering stage.
 
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