Uprooted Hemlock, or On the Natural and the Artificial


Hemlock is well-known for being the source of the poison that Socrates took to fulfil his death penalty. It is one of the most poisonous organisms known, with a meagre 0.2 grams of it enough to kill a person [1]. One plant, with its roots which are the most poisonous part, can weigh more than one kilogram.

Hemlock is equally toxic for animals, including cattle, so farmers are encouraged to dispose of it, which is not as straight forward as it might seem [2]. Cutting it with power tools is not advisable as it will spread seeds and potentially poison anyone that inhales droplets. The law in the UK forbids its disposal in composting bins or alongside household or industrial rubbish. It needs to be treated as the highly toxic material that it is.

Hemlock's biennial cycle plays against it when trying to grow in farm land: it only produces flowers and seeds on its second year, and crop fields are almost never left unploughed for two years in a row. Alongside its removal by farmers and ruralists [3], this is another reason why we do not often see large clumps of Hemlock. But in a few places, like in old landfill sites, it can be found growing free in a clump the middle of a field, like an advancing green army, bringing to us the message that free nature doesn't give a damn about our desires and fears; that as much as we try to re-create Nature after having murdered Nature, we are only deceiving ourselves: Hemlock, like Nature, won't be ruled by our neo-liberalist norms.

[1] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgajpd/medicina antiqua/sa_hemlock.html

[2] https://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74162.html

[3] My definition of a ruralist is that of a person who wants to tame nature to make it fit into an ideal picturesque landscape. A servile nature that seems to be always ready to accommodate the needs and wants of the ruralist. But then, is there any other kind of Nature? 

Create your website for free!