Eastern Hemlock

Tsuga canadensis

needles and cone

  • The inside bark is purplish.
  • The yellow-bellied sapsucker makes rows of small holes in trunk.
  • It may live up to 250 years.
  • It is the Pennsylvania state tree.
Other Common Names Hemlock, Canadian Hemlock

Needles are narrow, flat and soft, less than 1 inch long. Dark green above, with two white lines below. Like balsam fir, the needles on eastern hemlock seem to grow out from each of the twig. Each needle sits on a tiny stalk.

Twigs are slender, rough when needles fall. (Note: spruce twigs are much rougher than hemlock)

Buds are about 1/16 of an inch long, blunt, chestnut-brown in color

Bark is reddish-brown on young trees, becoming dark and cracked on older trees. Quite often small dead branches stay on the lower trunk of the tree.

Open cones hanging on treeCones In autumn cones are small, pale green at first, turning red-brown in late autumn, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long with thin, rounded scales.

Uses Hemlock is used for timbers and general construction, boxes and crates, railway ties and pulp.

The hemlock's small cones are among the smallest of the pine family. The with two white lines. These lines are actually four rows of white stomata (breathing pores) which are too small to be seen individually without a lens.

underside of needles The hemlock is a tree that grows best in cool, moist ravines. It is distributed in such habitats throughout the eastern half of our state.

While once it was used only for pulpwood or as a source of tannin for tanning leather, now considerable lumber is manufactured from hemlock for cheap construction purposes.

The Indians used the moist inner bark to make a poultice for wounds and sores. Even today hemlock oil, distilled from the needles and twigs, is used in liniments.


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This key was developed by "bt" in June 1982. It was put into HTML format by Stephen Ostermiller in July 1997. Copies of the entire guide in zip format that may be taken to camp on a laptop are available to those who write.