What grows wild in California, is something I almost ate and killed Socrates? (Pause). Did you guess hemlock? Good for you if so- that stuff will kill ya! Take a second and third look at the photos, this deadly invader looks just like cooking parsley!
Out of the Wild
Since I wasn’t lost in the woods facing possible starvation I popped online to ID this leafy garden guest. Was I surprised that it wasn’t parsley I found? Not really. I was however happy that I didn’t eat it! What decided to take root between my nectarine tree and blackberrys was hemlock!
Most people hear hemlock and they either think of a lake in New York state or the deadly potion that killed Socrates. Because Socrates wanted to get the people of his time’s heads out of the clouds and into the ethical realm, his philosophical teachings were largely controversial, costing him his life.
Once used as an ancient medicine in very tiny doses, improper use or when ingested in large doses, hemlock can cause death in animals and humans. Of its many active agents, coniine is a neuro-toxin and central nervous system disruptor.
But enough science- don’t eat the stuff!
Getting to Know the Guests
Visit Amy Stewart’s popular collection, Wicked Plants to read about what other members of the plant kingdom you should also keep out of your mouth!
Intrigued by the story of Socrate’s death? Check out one of my favorite classics, Phaedo– Plato’s re-telling as Socrate’s understudy.