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PHOTOS: Deadly plant found on Cornish beach

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8:21am 10th March 2018
(Updated 8:21am 10th March 2018)

A deadly plant found on a Cornish beach has sparked warnings from a professional forager.

Joshua Quick, who runs Wild St Ives, says the Hemlock Water Dropwort roots, known as 'Dead Man's Fingers', could be fatal to both humans and animals.

It is after he spotted them on the stretch between Porthkidney Sands and Lelant Beach near Hayle.


And while the dangerous species is common - Josh tells Pirate FM they are not normally exposed in such a way, and came after one of the cliffs had eroded in poor weather.

Now he's urging people not to eat them and asking dog walkers and parents to avoid the area if they can.

He said: "One of the cliffs has eroded slightly and dropped loads of Hemlock water dropwort roots (Oenanthe crocata).

"Whilst they are a common and beautiful plant in the UK, HWD is one of the most poisonous plants in the northern hemisphere and these roots are HIGHLY TOXIC! (as in youll be dead tommorow and today will be the worst day of your life).

"Normally they dont pose any problems, they are native to the UK, fairly common and are an important plant ecologically.

"Its a very rare occurence for the roots to be exposed like this in quantity.

"The roots are most often exposed along riverbanks after flooding. They like to grow in wet ground and its quite unusual for me to see them on a cliff edge.

"They look a lot like parsnips and also smell fairly similar. Make sure nobody eats these and be careful with any dogs in the area.

"Again, these are highly toxic and will kill you or your dog if eaten."


It comes after snow, ice and torrential rain battered the Duchy in recent weeks, causing a number of cliff falls along Cornwall's coast.

You can read about what happened at Lusty Glaze Beach here.

porthkidney sands
Image: Graham Horn

Joshua said: "It's the first time I've seen the roots exposed like this and there were lots of them.

"They are often called dead mans fingers and for good reason. One of the cliffs had eroded where a large patch was growing and dumped many exposed roots onto the beach above the high tide line..

"I've since removed all that I could see but it looks like more may drop soon so be careful!

"As a wild food guide I teach that the golden rule when foraging is to be 100% confident of the identification of the plant you are eating.

"There are some very dangerous plant out there.

"It is not safe to nibble on an unidentified plant.

"Foraging brings many benefits but also demands a great amount of respect for the plant kingdom."


Images: Wild St Ives/Joshua Quick

If you or someone you are with has been poisoned by eating a dangerous plant or substance, call 999 immediately.

Helping someone who's conscious:

If you think someone has been severely poisoned and they're still conscious, ask them to sit still and stay with them while you wait for medical help to arrive.

If they've been poisoned by swallowing something, try to get them to spit out anything that is remaining in their mouth.

If a harmful substance has splashed onto their skin or clothes, remove any contaminated items and wash the affected area thoroughly with warm or cool water. Be careful not to contaminate yourself in the process.

Helping someone who is unconscious

If you think someone has swallowed poison and they appear to be unconscious, try to wake them and encourage them to spit out anything left in their mouth. Don't put your hand into their mouth and don't try to make them sick.

While you're waiting for medical help to arrive, lie the person on their side with a cushion behind their back and their upper leg pulled slightly forward, so they don't fall on their face or roll backwards. This is known as the recovery position.

Wipe any vomit away from their mouth and keep their head pointing down, to allow any vomit to escape without them breathing it in or swallowing it. Don't give them anything to eat or drink.

If the person isn't breathing or their heart has stopped, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you know how to.

Source: NHS


What to do if you think your dog's been poisoned:

  • Stay calm. Remove dogs from the source of poison.
  • Contact your vet immediately; inform them when, where and how poisoning occurred. If appropriate, take the packaging, plant or substance to the vet. Don’t expose yourself to any harm.
  • Follow your vet’s advice.

Never attempt to treat/medicate dogs yourself. Some medicines for humans and other animals may be poisonous to dogs. Never attempt to make dogs vomit. Do not use salt water as it’s extremely dangerous. If skin/fur is contaminated, wash with mild shampoo and water, rinse well and dry. Keep dogs away from other animals to avoid cross-contamination. Never ‘watch and wait’. If you suspect your pet’s been poisoned, contact a vet immediately.

Preventing poisoning in dogs:

In the home:

  • Keep an eye on your dog.
  • Keep houseplants where dogs cannot reach them. Collect dropped leaves/petals.
  • Keep pesticides , e.g. rat baits, away from areas dogs can access.
  • If treating pets with insecticides, separate them from other pets.


  • Ensure housing and exercise areas are free from, and not overhung by, poisonous plants.
  • Ensure dogs water supplies cannot become contaminated, and change regularly.

Source: RSPCA

8:21am 10th March 2018

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