Cicuta virosa (Cowbane or Northern Water Hemlock) is a species of Cicuta, native to northern and central Europe, northern Asia and northwestern North America. It is a perennial herbaceous plant which grows up to 1–2 m tall. The stems are smooth, branching, swollen at the base, purple-striped, and hollow except for partitions at the junction of the leaves and stem.It grows in wet meadows, along streambanks and other wet and marshy areas.
There has been some dispute whether it was a hemlock of the genus Cicuta or the genus Conium which was used in ancient Greece as state poison. This poison was administered as a method of capital punishment and certainly the Greek philosopher Socrates drank a cup of some kind of hemlock infusion at his execution in 399 BC.