Hemlock by the bench

Hemlock by the bench

A (hem)lockdown.. It’s great to rest on the bench at Perthudden on the clifftop path to the Forvie Nature Reserve from Hightown, Collieston. However there are a few problems. You must expect the sudden appearance of dogs, and a muddy path can be a nuisance in winter, when sometimes even finding the bench can be a challenge.

During the summer months, you must brave the usual hazards - unpredictable weather, pollen, high humidity and air polluted with dangerous ozone levels. If you need a rest, or by chance that strange yellow ball appears in the sky, seek shade and park your butt on the bench, by all means. Butt be careful! You are surrounded by hemlock.

Often mistaken for common hogweed, cow and upright hedge parsley, poison hemlock is known by many names including the 'devil's oatmeal'. It has distinct spots on the stems. These purple blotches resulted from blood dripping on to hemlock from Jesus on the cross, according to an apocryphal yarn. Smelling like parsnips, hemlock is a native plant of the carrot family that's had a wild Press since before the crucifixion - the Greeks used it as a method of execution. In 399BC Socrates was put to death with a potent liquid infused with the plant. Philosophers, democrats and visionaries in Greece are battling authoritarianism to this day: beware of the troika if they come bearing drinks, Alexis.

Hemlock was blamed for witches 'looking like hog's dung' in the Middle Ages - likely explanations by email please! Thanks to all the good folk who identified the plant and helped with this article. (I am particularly indebted to a Newburgh reader who has introduced me to the delights of a heavy metal band called Hemlock). Contact with the plant can irritate the skin, but not as severely as the burns, blisters and scarring caused by giant hogweed sap (pix in the North-East Scotland gallery). Children, pets and livestock must be kept clear of hemlock (and many other plants). Picking a bouquet or fashioning a stem into a weapon, peashooter or penny whistle are no-brainers. Birds, and to a lesser extent sheep, remain unaffected by its poison. For adults, a small dose of hemlock seeds or root, or the ingestion of more than six fresh leaves, could prove fatal.

The best advice from the experts was: 'Don't try smoking it, Chris'. I've stopped smoking, but this is sound scientific advice, since hemlock disrupts the workings of the central nervous system through reaction upon nicotinic receptors. The brain stays alert after ingestion; anyone samplng hemlock must be far from lucid, but you'll remember getting rushed to hospital if you survive. Symptoms of hemlock poisoning include salivation, bloating, dilated pupils, rolling eyes, laboured respiration, irregular heartbeat, loss of sensation, convulsions, uncertain gait, falling and finally complete paralysis. You can experience such symptoms just by partying too hard, or listening to heavy metal music.

If you're approached by a smelly besom looking like pigshit, offering you a slug of homemade ouzo or a bowl of porridge, decline. Run for it, while you still can. The same advice does not apply to barmaids in Aberdeen; you'll never get served.

According to SEPA and SNH, poison hemlock should be dug out completely including the roots, then it must be bagged and composted. Some botanists suggest burning or treatment with a powerful weedkiller to avoid cross-pollination and regermination.

"Have we bitten on the insane root?" - Banquo addresses the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth
Ref:
Date:
2015-07-05 00:00:00.0
Location:
Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson
Hemlock by the bench

Hemlock by the bench

A (hem)lockdown.. It’s great to rest on the bench at Perthudden on the clifftop path to the Forvie Nature Reserve from Hightown, Collieston. However there are a few problems. You must expect the sudden appearance of dogs, and a muddy path can be a nuisance in winter, when sometimes even finding the bench can be a challenge.

During the summer months, you must brave the usual hazards - unpredictable weather, pollen, high humidity and air polluted with dangerous ozone levels. If you need a rest, or by chance that strange yellow ball appears in the sky, seek shade and park your butt on the bench, by all means. Butt be careful! You are surrounded by hemlock.

Often mistaken for common hogweed, cow and upright hedge parsley, poison hemlock is known by many names including the 'devil's oatmeal'. It has distinct spots on the stems. These purple blotches resulted from blood dripping on to hemlock from Jesus on the cross, according to an apocryphal yarn. Smelling like parsnips, hemlock is a native plant of the carrot family that's had a wild Press since before the crucifixion - the Greeks used it as a method of execution. In 399BC Socrates was put to death with a potent liquid infused with the plant. Philosophers, democrats and visionaries in Greece are battling authoritarianism to this day: beware of the troika if they come bearing drinks, Alexis.

Hemlock was blamed for witches 'looking like hog's dung' in the Middle Ages - likely explanations by email please! Thanks to all the good folk who identified the plant and helped with this article. (I am particularly indebted to a Newburgh reader who has introduced me to the delights of a heavy metal band called Hemlock). Contact with the plant can irritate the skin, but not as severely as the burns, blisters and scarring caused by giant hogweed sap (pix in the North-East Scotland gallery). Children, pets and livestock must be kept clear of hemlock (and many other plants). Picking a bouquet or fashioning a stem into a weapon, peashooter or penny whistle are no-brainers. Birds, and to a lesser extent sheep, remain unaffected by its poison. For adults, a small dose of hemlock seeds or root, or the ingestion of more than six fresh leaves, could prove fatal.

The best advice from the experts was: 'Don't try smoking it, Chris'. I've stopped smoking, but this is sound scientific advice, since hemlock disrupts the workings of the central nervous system through reaction upon nicotinic receptors. The brain stays alert after ingestion; anyone samplng hemlock must be far from lucid, but you'll remember getting rushed to hospital if you survive. Symptoms of hemlock poisoning include salivation, bloating, dilated pupils, rolling eyes, laboured respiration, irregular heartbeat, loss of sensation, convulsions, uncertain gait, falling and finally complete paralysis. You can experience such symptoms just by partying too hard, or listening to heavy metal music.

If you're approached by a smelly besom looking like pigshit, offering you a slug of homemade ouzo or a bowl of porridge, decline. Run for it, while you still can. The same advice does not apply to barmaids in Aberdeen; you'll never get served.

According to SEPA and SNH, poison hemlock should be dug out completely including the roots, then it must be bagged and composted. Some botanists suggest burning or treatment with a powerful weedkiller to avoid cross-pollination and regermination.

"Have we bitten on the insane root?" - Banquo addresses the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth
Ref:
Date:
2015-07-05 00:00:00.0
Location:
Photographer:
Yvonne Ferguson