Cicuta maculata L.
This extremely toxic perennial is native throughout North America.
Identification: Water hemlock, a member of the carrot family, is 3-6' (91-182 cm) in height. Stems are spotted or striped with purple. Small white flowers about ⅛" (3.2 mm) across occur in small separated groups, resembling little parasols. Each tiny flower has five petals and five stamens. The “parasols” are arranged into umbrella-shaped flowerheads. The separated parasols are probably the most obvious identifying feature of this plant.
Here is a comparison of some similar-appearing species:
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|Plant||3-6' (91-182 cm) in height. Extremely poisonous||Up to 3’ tall, with leaves so finely divided as to look featherlike, with “feathers” up to 9” long||Grows to 3’ in height. Plant smells like carrots.|
|Flowers||Small white flowers about ⅛" (3.2 mm) across occur in small separated groups, resembling little parasols. Each flower has 5 petals and 5 stamens. The “parasols” are arranged into umbrella-shaped flowerheads.||Densely packed clusters of tiny white flowers, flat-topped or umbrella-shaped. (Cultivars may be yellow, red, or many other colors.) Flowers have 4-6 petals; each petal has three lobes.||Pale pink before opening. When open, forms an umbrella-shaped flower cluster up to 3” across, composed of tiny 5-petaled flowers.|
|Leaves||Compound leaves are deeply divided and subdivided.|
|Stem||Stems are spotted or striped with purple.||Fine hairs on stems and leaves.|
|Habitats||Meadows, fields, nearly anywhere there is full or partial sun|
Edibility: Poisonous The spotted water hemlock is North America’s most toxic plant. All parts of this plant are poisonous to people, as well as to livestock. When swallowed, it produces death from violent and painful convulsions. Even very small quantities can cause death or permanent neurological damage.
Cicuta maculata on Missouriplants.com
Cicuta maculata on Earl J.S. Rook's Flora, Fauna, Earth, and Sky ... The Natural History of the Northwoods
Cicuta maculata on Erv Evans' site at the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Cicuta maculata at Illinois Wildflowers
Cicuta maculata on Wikipedia
Cicuta maculata on Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses
Cicuta maculata on Vascular Plants of the Gila Wilderness
Cicuta maculata at the University of Florida IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
Cicuta maculata from the Jepson Manual
1From the Wikipedia article
Cicuta maculata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 16 Aug 2013.