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Deadly Mistake!

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September 2014

Debra McGhan

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The plant in this photograph is actually Water Hemlock which is highly poisonous to humans. It contains a toxin called cicutoxin which causes central nervous system stimulation effects including seizures following ingestion. Be sure you are absolutely positive of the identification of a plant before ever harvesting or using.

I recently had an article published in Alaska Coast Magazine on the power of Alaska’s Plants. I was horrified when I got a call from the plant specialist I had interviewed, Shelley Plumb, that one of the photos in the article had been mislabeled and the mistake could be deadly. I accidentally submitted a photo of Water Hemlock with the information for Yarrow. I have submitted a correction to Alaska Coast which they are working to make on the website now. They will also be printing a correction in the October issue of the magazine.

I feel terrible about this mistake and please ask everyone to be ABSOLUTELY positive about the identity of a plant before ever using it for anything.

Shelley shared a story about two young boys at the Alaska State Fair that had been playing with a poisonous plant that ultimately resulted in the death of one of the children. She warned that really knowing and understanding plants definitely can be a life or death matter.


This is a yarrow plant. This plant is edible and a natural blood coagulator, so if you’re bleeding to death it can save your life. • For infection, this cooling plant slows inflammation. It’s also a blood purifier and reduces fever. Make a tea or crush to make a poultice.






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