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Ohio warned of deadly plant invasion

Ohio warned of deadly plant invasion

By Andi Anderson

Poison Hemlock, a dangerously toxic plant, has been spreading across Ohio, raising significant concerns for both human and animal health. Richard Gardner, Chief Botanist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, notes that this invasive species, introduced in the mid-19th century as ornamental foliage, is now prevalent in all 88 counties of Ohio.

Recognizable by its height of six to eight feet, fern-like leaves and white flowers, grows in moist environments like fence lines and irrigation ditches. It grows in full sun but can tolerate partial shade. Its resemblance to harmless species like parsley or wild carrots raises risks, as accidental ingestion can be fatal.

The entire plant contains toxic alkaloids that affect the nervous system and heart if ingested. These toxins affect the nervous system and heart if ingested. Direct contact with the sap can also cause reactions if it enters the eyes or an open wound, and airborne particles from the sap can be harmful if inhaled during the cutting or mowing of the plant.

If suspected of ingestion, immediate medical attention is crucial due to rapid symptoms such as sweating, vomiting, dilated pupils, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, restlessness, and confusion, which can lead to severe effects like muscle weakness, tremors, seizures, and even respiratory paralysis.

The toxicity is so severe that it not only poses a threat to humans but is particularly dangerous to livestock and pets. Symptoms of hemlock poisoning in animals occur rapidly, typically within an hour of consumption, and can quickly lead to respiratory paralysis and death within two to three hours.

Animals that have ingested Poison Hemlock may exhibit signs such as trembling, excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, lack of coordination, dilated pupils, rapid pulse, and convulsions. Immediate veterinary intervention is crucial to manage these symptoms and potentially save the animal's life.

Managing and controlling the spread of Poison Hemlock is essential and mandated by state law. For small infestations, physical removal of the plants, including the roots, is advised.

This should be done while wearing protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeves, and safety goggles to avoid skin contact with the plant’s toxic sap. For larger infestations, herbicides such as Crossbow, Remedy Ultra, glyphosate (Roundup), dicamba, and Cimarron Max have been effective.

Disposed of carefully, the uprooted plants should be bagged in plastic and thrown away to prevent further spreading and potential animal exposure. This proactive approach is crucial for safeguarding both human and animal populations from the severe risks posed by this highly poisonous plant.

Photo Credit:istock-alenamozhjer

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