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


  1. In our western NC county (Transylvania), the wooly adelgid is destroying most of our hemlocks, both the Eastern Hemlock and the Carolina Hemlock. While some trees are being treated and saved, huge stands will be lost with devastating effects on our environment and watershed. It is such a sad sight to see so many hemlock skeletons in so many areas of our lovely forests.

  2. What a smart kitty. That looks like a perfect place to park to me!

  3. carolyn, it's hard to even think about it. i love those trees! have you heard about the release of an asian beetle which is a natural predator of the woolly adelgid? you have to wonder if that won't cause its own set of problems, but apparently it is helping some.

    rebecca, isn't she pretty? i loved that picture of her!

  4. Yes, our town ordered a huge number of the "sassy beetles" to treat some of the large hemlocks on public property. Many homeowners also purchased them and others are treating systemically. Unfortunately the beetles are not practical for the large stands in the forests and the chemicals cannot be used because of stream pollution.

    And yes, I always worry about release of any non-native flora or fauna. The word "kudzu" always comes to mind.

  5. Eastern hemlock is a beautiful tree - there's one in my Dad's front yard. For some reason it isn't popular at all in people's yards around here - his is the only deliberately planted one I've seen for several streets around.

    My mom planted it a little more than 20 years ago, in an area of the lawn that was bare and lacking in anything but grass. It was so small then that she put an 18-inch fence around it so that I nobody would accidentally run over it with the lawnmower! Now it's about 20 feet tall - they grow slower up here, but they can grow in full sunlight, whereas it might have a hard time surviving the summers further south without shade.

  6. carolyn, there are some real disasters with non-native introductions. lots of them! for example, here's a link to the world's 10 worst invasive species, some introduced on purpose, some by accident.

    rps, the further south you go, the more altitude you need to make these trees really happy. i think they really love sun as they age, but they put up with shade where i am.