Deadly water hemlock plant found growing near White Rock Lake

An innocent-looking plant found at a popular North Texas lake could be deadly.

Dallas Park and Recreation Department officials said water hemlock was recently discovered near White Rock Lake.

A close look along the water's edge showed a poisonous flowering plant taking root.

"We were informed that there were some plants that appear to be water hemlock around White Rock Lake," said Brett Johnson, who is an urban biologist with the city of Dallas.

Hemlock is a highly poisonous plant that has small clusters of white flowers that grow in an umbrella formation.

The toxins affect the central nervous system and can cause violent convulsions just minutes after exposure. 

People are advised to not touch it. It can be fatal if ingested.

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The plant is along the lakefront where park patrons can accidentally come into contact with it, so Johnson said killing it is an "urgent priority."

"If a person, or even a pet were to consume it in order to ingest it, it can cause strong convulsions and can be fatal," he explained.

The poison can also be absorbed through the skin.

Crews have already sprayed a pesticide on the plant that was discovered. They returned to the lake Friday morning to spray it again and search for other plants.

Parkgoers are asked to avoid walking through brush along the water's edge. That goes for pets too.

"Right now, it has not gone to seed. So we want to go ahead and get it treated and get it removed before it has a chance to seed," Johnson said.

People out at the lake Friday said they were concerned and grateful for the quick action.

"We stretch close to the water in the middle of our walk/run. We stretch close to the water, so it really concerns us," said Solomon Wondu, who often runs in the area where the hemlock was discovered.

"Definitely something to be concerned about and just stay away from the weeds, not get so close to the shore and appreciate it from afar," added Troy Castle, who lives nearby.

Officials said all parts of the plant are poisonous and the amount of toxin tends to be higher in sunny areas, so it’s especially a concern during Texas summers.

After Friday’s treatment, crews will monitor the situation to see if it was effective or not, and decide whether or not another application is needed.