Walkers and dog owners have been told to watch out for and avoid poisonous ‘parsnips’ after toxic plant roots that are deadly to eat were washed up on a North West beach today (12th March, 2021). It is thought that the recent storms and tidal surges have uprooted the plants which are believed to be the most toxic tubers growing in the Northern Hemisphere. The ‘parsnips’ contain a powerful neurotoxin called oenanthetoxin, which triggers spasmodic convulsions, usually followed by sudden death. They are DEADLY to humans and animals.
These ‘parsnips’ are in fact hemlock water dropwort roots and because of their shape and toxicity are known ‘dead man’s fingers’. The plant is relatively common along parts of the UK coastline, however, the roots which look similar to a parsnip are extremely toxic to both animals and humans. The ‘parsnips’ came ashore today further North, on St Bees Beach, but there are fears that these poisonous ‘parsnips’ may also be currently washed up on other beaches and shores along the North West coast.
Back in 2002 the Emergency Medicine Journal reported how eight students in Argyll, Scotland, ate a Dead Man’s Fingers curry, mistaking the roots for parsnips. Despite them only eating the sauce, as they felt the ‘parsnips’ tasted too bitter to eat, four fell gravely-ill and needed hospital treatment to survive.