hemlock water dropwort
hemlock water dropwortWikimedia commons

A Cornish beach is literally spewing poison after storm Emma pummelled Britain this week. Porthkidney Beach in Lelant has exposed a deadly plant called hemlock water dropwort which has extremely poisonous parsnip-like roots, aptly known as dead man's fingers.

Professional forager and wild food expert Joshua Quick said that even a small portion of these roots can kill a person.

What is more deceptive? The plant looks and smells like parsley.

"It's the first time I've seen the roots exposed like this and there are lots of them. They are often called dead man's fingers and for good reason. One of the cliffs has eroded where a large patch was growing. It's very unusual to see them growing on a cliff like that, usually, they grow in or around water and riverbanks," said Joshua, according to Cornwall Live.

The water dropworts, if consumed, attack the nervous system and shuts down the body, which eventually leads to death. The poison is so potent that just one of these roots can even kill a cow, according to Joshua.

He also warned people that pets might chew on these roots or someone might take them for vegetables and carry them home.

What makes it so poisonous?

Hemlock water dropwort, infamously called the most poisonous indigenous plant in Britain, contains oenanthotoxin, which reportedly causes convulsions, seizures, nausea, diarrhea, renal failure, respiratory impairment, and cardiac dysrhythmias.

Wildfooduk.com stated that the poison kills by constricting the muscles, which causes asphyxia. It is also said to leave an unnatural fixed grin on the victim's face.