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Washoe County Parks Officials Warn Of Poison Hemlock Outbreak


Washoe County is warning the public about an outbreak of poison hemlock growing throughout Truckee Meadows.

The plant is native to western Nevada and blooms in the late spring and early summer along ditches, creeks, and the Truckee River.

With all the heavy rains over the winter and spring, the poison hemlock has grown taller than usual. Colleen Wallace Barnum, Washoe County Parks operations superintendent, says the county is making hemlock removal a priority.

"Well I think it has risen to that level at this point. It is right along a nature trail, so it's basically growing on either side of a really heavily used nature trail along the Truckee River, so that is a really important area that we really want to control," Barnum says.

Hemlock is poisonous when eaten, and sometimes people can mistake it for wild parsley or wild carrot. It is native to Western Nevada and blooms in the late spring and early summer along ditches, creeks, and the Truckee River.

Washoe County Parks officials say that people should avoid eating plants they can not identify as safe, and keep pets on a leash to prevent them from getting sick.

If ingested by a pet, hemlock can cause vomiting, seizures, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dilated pupils and drooling.

Sandy Rowley is a hiker who likes to hike near the Truckee River. She had an encounter with the plant where she had not ingested hemlock but still suffered from contact with it.

"I got sick for two days. I was vomiting. And I just touched the plant!" Rowley says. "And it was only for about twenty minutes, so I wouldn't recommend anyone to walk through here and to have a stroll or a jog."

Sometimes, Washoe County uses grazing sheep and goats in Arrowcreek Open Space to remove several types of weeds in the area. The other types of weeds that can be harmful to people and pets include diffuse knapweed, spotted knapweed, Russian knapweed, medusahead, puncturevine, scotch thistle, must thistle, yellowstar thistle, Canada thistle, hoary cress, perennial pepperweed, and purple loosestrife.

You can find out more about poisonous plants from the University of Nevada Reno Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Program here.

The hotline for Poison Control if hemlock or other hazardous plants are ingested is (800) 222-1222.

 Washoe County

Ky Plaskon

Former Contributing Sierra/Reno Reporter

Ky was a contributing reporter to Capital Public Radio through June 2015.  Read Full Bio 

Cody Drabble

Insight Producer and On-Air Director

Cody Drabble learned to love public radio growing up in San Francisco with KQED on every morning during breakfast. In addition to producing and directing the live broadcast of Insight each morning, he also fills in as guest host for Beth Ruyak.   Read Full Bio 

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