shade metals

Hemlock, the Poison That Killed Socrates?

Sara & Cesar
socrates-hemlock.jpg

Socrates did drink hemlock poison to defend his ideals, but poison kills slowly.  So, perhaps he ran out of prophetic words because upon dying he reminded his protégé, "Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius.  Pay it and do not neglect it."  

The European poisonous plant hemlock is a member of the carrot family, with delicate white bunches of flowers. Eating just a handful of its leaves can be fatal.  It is also poisonous to many animals, and can cause deformities in their offspring if it doesn't kill the mother.  

 
 This Hemlock grows on Belle Isle along the James River in Richmond Virginia.  

This Hemlock grows on Belle Isle along the James River in Richmond Virginia.  

Native to Europe and North Africa, Hemlock plants are resourceful and able to live in many environments, easily establishing themselves outside of their natural range. Hemlock the tree, native to North America, was given its common name because the crushed leaves of the tree and plant have a similar scent.   

We live in Richmond, Virginia, not too far up river from where Europeans landed in the early 1600s.  This photo of the Hemlock plant was taken along the James River, on Belle Isle in 2016.  It is entirely possible that the Hemlock along the James River has been there for more than 400 years, and has become a naturalized part of the landscape.  

 
hemlock-forest-in-great-smokey-mountain-national-park.jpg
 By Elbert L. Little, Jr., USGS - USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center: Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29263489

By Elbert L. Little, Jr., USGS - USGS Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center: Digital Representations of Tree Species Range Maps from "Atlas of United States Trees" by Elbert L. Little, Jr. (and other publications), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29263489

 

And that's where similarities end.  The Eastern Hemlock grows up the Appalachians from Georgia into Canada, while the Western Hemlock grows up a small sliver hugging the Oregon coast into Canada.  The Eastern Hemlock is currently threatened by a non-native pest, read more in Hemlock, the Tree That's Going Extinct?