The wild carrot is one of the most common edible wild plants. They can be found in meadows, vacant lots and anywhere else that remains unmowed over the summer months. The leaves and stems look identical to a regular carrot plant. Identifying the wild carrot is very easy…. everything on the plant smells like carrots. You can crush the leaves between your fingers to release the smell.
Mature plants will reach about 3 feet tall and will have a flat white flower or a “ball” at the end. When you pull the plant out of the ground it will have a tap root that is similar in shape to a regular carrot but will be pale in color and considerably smaller. These carrots are kind of bitter but are a good source of food when you are hungry.
The poison hemlock is a similar looking plant but they are easily distinguished from the wild carrot. The physical differences are many. The poison hemlock will be much taller than the carrot, up to 8-10 feet tall. It also gives off a pungent odor when the leaves are crushed. The stems are hollow and will most likely have some purplish spots. Here is a link with more information on poison hemlock. Many counties have eradication programs that kill or remove this plant. I haven’t been able to find any poison hemlock in my area.