Hancock County to find answers to poison hemlock spread

Poison Hemlock can be identified by its large size, triangle-shaped leaves, purple-splotched stems, and white flowers. Picture from the ISU online crop extension encyclopedia.
Ben Hassebroek

Weed Commissioner Jason Lackore spoke to the Hancock County board of supervisors on June 10 about an ongoing development in the county: the spread of poison hemlock in the past two years. The discussion for the noxious weed prevention program centered almost entirely on the discussion of this potentially dangerous weed, which had only just been sighted in the county starting in 2022 alongside Purple Loosestrife and Garlic Mustard by 2023.

            Poison hemlock is a difficult to control weed, which is highly toxic upon consumption. Lackore found that only a few seeds need to be consumed for it to be fatal to humans, while cattle and other livestock can also be put at risk. The plant fumes are also toxic, making removal especially dangerous. 

            According to Lackore, all parts of the plant are highly poisonous, causing respiratory failure and heart complications. The plant also smells like parsnip, but isn’t poisonous to touch. Great caution is advised when addressing Poison Hemlock and Lackore advises that the plant should be dealt with by qualified individuals.

            The hemlock plant has been sighted in two areas of Hancock County, those being Eagle Lake Nature Area and the streams that are connected to the Iowa River near Garner. Lackore believes it will be difficult to control it all, as the plant produces a high amount of seeds. City officials have already been notified of the issue. An idea was brought forth to create a contract to control the weed’s spread, which the board will deliberate on as more information becomes available. “These are public areas where if someone eats a few leaves, they’re probably not going to make it,” says Lackore. “It’ll be an uphill battle controlling it all, but we have to do it.” The board has requested that Lackore returns next week to continue the discussion.

(Editor's Note: more information about Poison Hemlock can be found here: https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/c10a53e0-1feb-472f-bf1b-63bf20a9913a/do...

            According to county engineer Jeremy Purvis, roadwork on the blacktops near the Forest City airport will tentatively begin at the start of July and end around Labor Day. The following roads are a part of the project: B14 from US 69 to Cerro Gordo Co. line, Sage Ave from B14 to 340th, R74 from B14 to Winnebago Co. line, and River Road from B14 to Valley Road. The planned detour route during construction is Iowa DOT Hwy 9, north of B14.

            Maintenance director Jake Schreur provided new details about the potential repair to the courthouse fountain. Mid Iowa Fountain Services, a contractor from the Des Moines area, used cameras to look inside the fountain’s piping and found small hairline cracks in two of the pipes, which could be responsible for the current leaking. 

            After some deliberation over how to approach these pipes, the board agreed to let Jake cap the damaged pipes and attempt to fill the fountain to confirm if the offending pipes are the only leaks.

Cale Edwards will be departing from his position as executive director of the county board of conservation on June 25. 

“He’ll be missed, but he’ll also be going to work closer to home, and that’s quite nice,” said board member Sis Greiman.


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