Northern Ireland

County Down warning over poison parsnips

Hemlock water dropwort weed or 'poison parsnips'.
Image caption Hemlock water dropwort weed is also known as 'poison parsnips'

Dog owners in County Down are being warned about a toxic plant.

There are reports the Hemlock Water Dropwort - or poisonous parsnip - has been found at Ballyholme beach in Bangor as well as Ballyvester and Crawfordsburn beaches.

It is believed the plant was responsible for the death of a dog which tried to eat it at Drain's Bay in Larne last month.

At the time, the plant also washed up at nearby Carnfunnock Bay.

Hemlock Water Dropwort is the most poisonous plant that grows locally.

The perennial plant is found in shallow water and is most toxic in late winter and early spring.

There have been rare cases where humans were poisoned when the plants leaves were mistaken for celery or its tuberous roots for parsnips.

North Down Borough Council's principal environmental officer Marcus Poots said he believed the wet winter had led to increased growth of the plant.

"Some dogs would eat anything, and owners should keep a close eye on them to make sure they don't eat anything they shouldn't," he said.

"If anyone comes across what they think is the plant, I'd be grateful if they could send us a photo and details of where they found it."

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