Cranberry bogs lend themselves to some weeds that may not be seen in fields of other small fruit plantings. This is because of, perhaps, a slightly more moist environment, a lack of rows and a somewhat wilder setting for fruit production than, say, blueberries and raspberries. Two of these weeds are particularly toxic so you should be aware of them.
It is a bit weird to think that this weed is related to parsley, but Water Hemlock is one of the most toxic plants in our region. It thrives in wet environments such as riparian zones and low areas. It is probably more likely to be found on dikes than in the bogs themselves; at least at the edges. It is a large, robust plant that can grow up to about 2 meters. It has hollow, jointed stems, and long, oval and coarsely saw-toothed leaves. It has small flowers in clusters at the very tops of the plants. A distinguishing feature is an enlarged or bulbous taproot, with hollow chambers in it that contain cicutoxin, an extremely dangerous poison. A similar plant, Cow Parsnip, does not have saw-toothed leaves, is a bigger plant and no bulbous root. If you come across Water Hemlock, there are usually few enough you can pull by hand – with gloves of course, long sleeves and eye protection! Dispose of the plants by composting them.
Like Water Hemlock, Giant Hogweed has white flowers at the tops of the plants – and that is where the similarity ends. Giant Hogweed is a bold and striking plant, absolutely huge – and very dangerous. It also likes to grow in undisturbed areas, ditches and moist areas. It can grow up to 5 meters in height, with flower heads over a meter in diameter. The leaves might also grow more than a meter in diameter, and shiny, deeply divided like a maple leaf with coarsely saw-toothed edges. The stems are hollow with purple blotches and have bristly hairs on them. The danger from Giant Hogweed is in the plant sap, which contains toxins that cause severe and painful burns upon contact with skin in the presence of sunlight. The scars from resulting welts, rashes and blisters can be so bad they may persist for several years. The sap can cause blindness if in contact with eyes. If you think you have one or more of these plants on your farm, call the BC Ministry of Agriculture for assistance in removing them.