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Hemlock in Green Lane

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Hemlock Stem

There has been lengthy discussion on the Haddenham dotNet Facebook page concerning the growth of Hemlock along Green Lane.

For the benefit of those who choose not to use Facebook, or do not have the time or inclination to read through all the posts, here are two specific comments:

From Roderick Floud
Chairman, Haddenham Village Society

At the beginning of May, it was reported that hemlock was growing on the verges of the Green Lane. It was at first agreed that it should be cut down before it had flowered, so that the seeds could not be spread. However, the Parish Council's contractor suggested that the Royal Horticultural Society should be consulted about the best way to deal with this poisonous plant.

The use of a herbicide was rejected, because of the possibility of damage to other plants and, recently, advice has been received from the RHS that organic management involves cutting down the plants in early summer, which would be now. As it is so tall this year and can't be easily cut with the usual equipment the Parish Council are arranging for a flail to cut it down ASAP, avoiding the areas that have other wild flowers as much as possible.

It will then have two more cuts in late summer / early autumn and again in the spring of 2020. It has got so tall this year because it didn't have the spring cut, as we didn't know about it then. It is hoped the plants will reduce with this cutting regime over the next year or two, but if not we may have to dig them out to remove them over the next few years, not allowing them to seed and spread further.

Bucks County Council has advised that hemlock is common in Buckinghamshire, that it appears periodically — perhaps due to weather conditions — and that it has appeared this year in many other locations in the county. It has been reported also at Snakemoor and this is being investigated.

The website of the Wildlife Trusts states that: "Hemlock has a repellent (unpleasant and mousy) smell when its leaves are crushed, helping to ensure that accidental poisonings don't occur very often — even livestock studiously avoid it." It prefers damp places, waste ground, riverbanks and ditches as well as roadside verges. Despite its attractive (to some) appearance, it is highly poisonous and every effort will be made to eradicate it.

From Sue Gilbert
Clerk to Haddenham Parish Council

The Parish Council has now received confirmation from the RHS that the plants are hemlock. Bucks County Council have also confirmed that the recent weather conditions have meant an increase in hemlock generally across the county so the perfect growing conditions have probably made the situation on Green Lane worse.

There has been a lot of discussion about the best course of action to deal with the large quantity we are faced with and we have decided to use an organic management program to ensure that the other wild plants are allowed to thrive.

We realise the plants have grown tall very quickly and are now starting to encroach on the path, so as soon as possible they will be cut down, avoiding as much as possible the other flowering plants. This will be repeated in the usual scheduled late summer / early autumn cut, and again in early spring next year. The regrowth will be monitored and if necessary a program of digging out the plants may be needed to reduce the number, this is obviously labour intensive so we hope it can be avoided.

Contact with the plants can cause skin irritation and they are poisonous if eaten. Many other wild plants also sting or are poisonous so it is always sensible to wear long trousers / sleeves and not to eat unknown plants when out in the countryside. So please just take care but continue to enjoy the path.