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Cow Parsnip Vs Water Hemlock: Key Differences To Identify

Recently, a new trend among plant folks has been running wild in comparing the Water Hemlock and the Cow Parsnip due to their similarity.

Cow Parsnip and Water Hemlock are identical morphologically with elongated hollow stems. However, the dark leaves of the Hemlock distinguish it from the Cow Parsnip with other differences in flower size and toxicity.

Continue with the article to clear any confusing buzzes regarding Cow Parsnip vs Water Hemlock to prevent history from repeating itself.

Cow Parsnip & Water Hemlock: Similarities

Often people mistake the Cow Parsnip for Water Hemlock and other alike perennial weeds like Giant Hogweed and Poison Hemlock.

The comparison is usually due to their small umbel-shaped white flowers that grow in clusters nearby swamps and riverbanks.

Also, the serrated compound leaves can be an intriguing factor in making the Cow Parsnip and Water Hemlock appear the same, as both have a feathery appearance.
Cow Parsnip & Water Hemlock
Cow Parsnip and Water Hemlock are weeds that spread.

Meanwhile, both plants belong to the parsley family and come from the temperate zone of North America.

Cow Parsnip Vs Water Hemlock: Differences

Cow Parsnip grows bigger and blooms earlier than Water Hemlock.

Firstly, take the leaf size, as the Cow parsnip leaves extend up to 24 inches wide while the White Hemlock has 4 inches-long leaflets extending up to 1 to 1.5 inches wide.

Similarly, Cow Parsnips’ stems are purplish green with soft hairs and grow up to 3 feet. In contrast, Water Hemlock has purple blotches on the smooth skin that grow to 6.5 feet.

Further common differences between the Cow Parsnip and Water Hemlock are highlighted in the table below.

FeaturesCow ParsnipWater Hemlock
Leaf ColorLight green with matt finishDark green with slightly glossy shine
Plant Size4-10 feet3-6 feet
Blooming TimeApril to JuneMay to September
Flower Number15-30 rays in the umbel structured flowers10 or more rays in the umbell structured flowers
Flower Cluster Spread12 inches across in diameter6 inches across in diameter
SmellPleasant smell (a mix of Parsley and Aniseed)No smell at all
ToxicityThe sap can cause irritation and rashes to the skin as a mildly toxic plant.All parts of the plant is highly toxic that can be lethal to pets, livestock and humans.

From Editorial Team

More On Uses & Toxicity!

Cow Parsnip can soothe colds and sore throats,  but it has a strong flavor, and some cannot tolerate it.

Though Water Hemlock is used as a medication for migraine headaches and painful menstruation, cicutoxin can severely cause poisonous effects in livestock and humans.

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