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Hemlock Plants Growing Along Highway 99 in Stockton, Modesto Can be Deadly

MODESTO -- They grow along Highway 99 in flowery white and green patches, but poison hemlock, as the name states, can be dangerous, even deadly.

“The smell of the sap from this plant has been described as smelling mousey, I think of it as earthy maybe,” Alan Hickman said.

Hickman has been studying plants for the last 20 years. With a gloved hand, he showed us what the poisonous weed looks like and the problems it may cause.

“It’s guilty of contact dermatitis, if you touch it, you get some of the chemicals in your hand and it causes swelling and rashes and things,” he said.

In Nevada, poison hemlock has sprung up on popular trails, prompting officials there to warn hikers to stay away from the plant. With the drought over in most parts of California, the Sacramento region is no different.

The director of California Poison Control said that sometimes people eat poison hemlock mistaking it for something else. Within two hours, that dangerous meal can cause respiratory failure, even death.

“Don’t mess with a plant unless you can positively identify it,” Hickman said.

The weed may be mistaken for carrot tops, Hickman warns, this plant is no treat.

“You don’t want to make a carrot cake out of the roots 'cause it could be your last carrot cake,” he said.

Some other signs of hemlock poisoning include: nausea, paleness and vomiting. If you believe you accidentally ate poison hemlock, please call the California Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.