Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is a medium to large evergreen tree often 60-70’ tall (maximum 159’). Needles are flattened, blunt, and ½” long. Needles are arranged in 2-ranks. Twigs are yellow-brown and densely hairy. Cones are ¾” long. Native to eastern North America and very common in cultivation. Pioneers despised its wood, and valued its bark for tanning (and made good, hard pavers). In the primeval forest, specimens live as long as 969 years, as did one in Cambria County, PA. State Tree of Pennsylvania. The species was introduced to the West by Peter Collinson in 1736. Today it is threatened by the wooly adelgid. The common name “hemlock” comes from the Indians of upper New York who called this tree “Ohnehtah” and referred to Canada as the land of the “Ohnehtah”. Notably the poisonous hemlock does not come from the Pinaceae but from the parsley family, Apiaceae, Circuta maculata and Conium maculatum. Tsuga is the Japanese name for trees in this genus. The specific epithet means native of Canada. This is a climax forest tree.
Common name: Eastern Hemlock
Scientific Name (family and order): Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carriere (Pinaceae, Pinales)
Species Origin: Eastern North America
New Jersey Status: USDA Native
Habit: 40 – 70’ x 25 – 35’; bole 1 ½ – 3’ diameter.
Habitat: Zones 3 – 7; hilly or woody areas.
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray with scaly ridges. Long branches may droop to the ground. Although in the wild this tree has one prominent straight stem, under cultivation it often produces multiple crooked stems.
Leaves: Evergreen; needle-like. Linear ½” long, dark green above with two white bands beneath. Leaves are flat on cross-section. The leaves taper to rounded tips. Leaves lie flat to either side of the shoot (double rank).
Flowers: Monoecious. Male flowers yellow form beneath the shoot; female flowers resemble small green cones at the shoot tip; flowers in separate clusters on same plant.
Fruits and seeds: Cone egg-shaped, pale brown, hanging from end of shoot, ¾” diameter. Cones persist after shedding the seeds in the fall.