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Cicuta Maculata

Cicuta Maculata

Cicuta Maculata

Cicuta Maculata is the scientific name for spotted cowbane, a plant that is found in the American southwest. The plant has very toxic and poisonous compounds, but it has been used in human medicine for its bitter alkaloid content. It's sometimes used as an antispasmodic and carminative, and has also been rumored to help alleviate rheumatic pain.Cicuta maculata is a highly poisonous species of flowering plant in the carrot family known by several common names, including spotted water hemlock, spotted parsley, spotted cowbane, and the suicide root by the Iroquois. It is native to nearly all of North America, from northern Canada to southern Mexico.The plant is occasionally mistaken for parsnips, due to its clusters of white tuberous roots; this is an often fatal error, as the Cicuta is extremely poisonous. It is considered to be North America's most toxic plant.

Plant

Taxonomists sometimes recognize two species of water hemlock in North America. Cicuta maculata (spotted water hemlock) in the strict sense occurs over most of North America but is replaced by Cicuta douglasii (western water hemlock) in the northwestern United States and western Canada. Both species are similar in having umbels of small white flowers borne on tall stems (up to 6 feet in height) above once to thrice pinnately compound, fern-like leaves. The leaflets of Cicuta can be distinguished from similar, non-toxic species in the parsley family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) by having veins that fork at their tips, with one branch ending at the tip of the leaflet and the other in the V-shaped sinus between adjacent leaflet lobes.

All parts of water hemlock are toxic, but the poison is especially virulent from the roots. The lower stem and upper roots of Cicuta contain numerous internal partitions or air spaces that can be revealed if sliced lengthwise. Would-be natural food gourmands are well advised to avoid parsley-like plants with this combination of leaflet and root characteristics.Water hemlock is one of the most toxic plants known to man. All parts are extremely poisonous. It is closely related to the hemlock used to execute Socrates. Water hemlock occurs throughout Florida and flowers in the spring and summer. Some of these plants are considered edible. However, some, such as the water hemlock, are extremely toxic to humans and animals, and do cause death. Because these plants are easily confused, it is best to avoid all aquatic plants that have large clusters of white flowers. (Source: plants.ifas.ufl.edu)

 

 

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