ONE of Britain’s most poisonous plants has been discovered at a Canvey country park.

Castle Point Council confirmed a large amount of hemlock has been found at Canvey Heights, which can be deadly to both humans and animals.

Dave Blackwell, leader of Canvey Independent Party, organised a site visit to the park, off Creek Road, after being contacted by concerned residents who suspected a 7ft tall plant could be giant hogweed.

Over the past month, more than ten people across the country have suffered third degree burns and terrible blisters after brushing past the plant, which contains toxic chemicals, which react with sunlight when in contact with human skin.

Although the plant was not hogweed, it was discovered to be hemlock. Mr Blackwell said: “Hemlock is the most poisonous plant we can get in this country, so what we’ve found is actually much worse than hogweed.

“I suspected that’swhat it was, but I was still shocked when the council officers confirmed it to me.

“It’s really scary reading up how harmful it is.

“The leaves, stalk and roots are all poisonous, so it’s really dangerous. The stalk is a distinctive purple colour so if we get the message out there, then visitors toCanveyHeights will know to stay away. My main concern is dogs, because we all know they will eat anything.

“Ideally we need to get rid of all the hemlock, but the council doesn’t seem too concerned.”

Hemlock, also known as conium maculatum, paralyses the nervous system when consumed, with the main cause of death being respiratory failure.

Castle Point Council claims it would be “virtually impossible”

to get rid of the hemlockwithout damaging nearby plants.

Ryan Lynch, from the environment department, also said it is highly unlikely park visitors would eat the plant as it does not have any berries.

He added: “Hemlock can be seen on many areas of highway and around the edges of most of our woods, basically anywhere that is not amenity manicured grassland.

“Removing it would be virtually impossible and would require hand pulling and maybe chemical treatment. “However, this would affect all broadleaf plants in the general area so it is not really practical.

“It’s important to note we have many poisonous plants in our open space areas, gardens and woods.

“I would not wish to consider any form of control as I believe the risk to be minimal with no berries on the hemlock to encourage ingestion by humans.”

Hemlock favourite method of murder with authors

HEMLOCK is so poisonous it has been played the murder weapon in numerous plays, films and TV shows.

The plant is referred to in three of Shakespeare’s plays – King Lear, Hamlet and Macbeth – and also featured in a murder investigation in a 1942 episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

In a 1996 episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the alien Quinn committed suicide by consuming hemlock.

In recent years, there have also been many real-life deaths from the plant. Biochemist and keen gardener Wayne Calderwood, from Devon, killed himself in 2006 after mashing hemlock into an alcoholic drink.

In April 2010, a woman from Washington, America, died after accidentally putting hemlock in her salad. The same month, a man made a full recovery after being rushed to hospital just 15 minutes after eating the plant, complaining of sight problems.

The plant is from the same family as carrot and fennel, but has a mouse-like smell.