Sunday, August 8, 2010

Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, with Kitty

The hemlock in my front yard has  grown to about ten feet tall in the few years since we planted it.  In the cooler climes it prefers, it could eventually reach heights of over 150 feet with a trunk diameter of over five feet.  There are specimens in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that size and larger.  Some are believed to be over 500 years old.

Here in the piedmont, Eastern hemlock is a good understory tree because it does fine in shade, but don't expect it to grow much more than twenty or thirty feet tall.   In spring, new growth is nearly neon against the deep forest green of the older branches.  It is a beautiful tree year round, but I wanted to plant one most of all for the cones which sneak into my pockets when I walk by.  They are tiny and perfect and a pretty addition to potpourri.

Native Americans used the tree for everything from treating arthritis to easing childbirth to dyeing leather.

Native American Ethnobotany, UM-Dearborn
NCSU Eastern hemlock fact sheet  with photos.

In some parts of the North Carolina mountains, hemlock wooly adelgid has devastated hemlock populations.  It is not a problem here yet, but we are on the lookout.

Losing the Eastern Hemlock, Charlotte Observer video