Hi, I'm trying to find out which plant growing along the ditches and Hedgerows is Hemlock and which Cow Parsley: However, the more I look, the more confused I have become!! 'HmmmmAsk a Biologist' I thought, so last night, armed with my Mobile camera, I set out to take some pictures, and now I'm totally flumoxed as there are 3, possibly more, different plants growing that are very similar in appearance, any one of which could be Hemlock! Here are my observations:

Plant number 1 in the photos is easily up to 12 feet tall, has softly ridged, round stems rhat are mottled a purpley-blood red, more intense at the lower portion of the trunk and getting lighter toward the top. There is also a 'bloom' of whitish material, much like the stuff found on grapes, that covers the surface of the stems. The leaves are compound twice pinnate, graceful and fern-like and the Umbel flower heads flattish, white and approx 3-4'' across.

Plant number 2 is about the same size, but the ridges on the stems are more pronounced. There is no mottling but the lowest part of the trunks are red. There is no grape-like bloom. The leaves are slightly different being less graceful and more chunky. The flower heads are cream coloured, larger and slightly domed in shape like a Cauliflower.

Plant number 3 (which I believe to be Cow Parsley) was difficult to find as most of the Hedgerows and banks have been cut back. I did find some starting to grow back, minus flowers, however, and noticed that the stalks are sort of triangular, with a ridge down the back and two in the front. The but between the 2 front ridges is slightly indented with light ridging across the width of the stems. The leaves are sort of a cross between the other 2 plants. Remembering the flowers from the Spring, they are white, delicate umbels, about 3'' across.

Can someone help me learn which plant is Hemlock and what the other plants are please? Thanks

Post's pictures

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plant 2.jpg, 134.16 kb, 716 x 536


I'm afarid I can't tell from your photos exactly what you have.

However, cow parsley has now gone over, so anything with flowers is almost certainly not cow parsley. Cow parsley has green, hollow, unmottled, hairless stems.

There are a couple of very similar later season successors to cow parsly, the most common being rough chervil. This has solid purpled blotched stems but is rather coursely hairy.

Hemlock has a hairless, purple-blotched stem and looks generally 'unpleasant'. However, looking at your Picture 1, the leaves do not look fine enough to me but they could be.

Picture 2 could be rough chervil but it looks like the stem is hairless and you don't mention hairs.

Picture 3 looks more like cow parsley...

I would suggest investing in a good plant field guide if you want to properly identify plants in your area, the Collins guide is pretty good; the Francis Rose field guide is also very good but perhaps a touch more expensive...