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Tsuga heterophylla

Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.

Western hemlock

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Synonym(s):

USDA Symbol: TSHE

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N)

Western hemlock is a graceful, Pacific Coast evergreen with a narrow, pyramidal crown; semi-pendulous branches; red-brown, scaly bark; and fine-textured, dark-green needles. The tree may reach 200 ft. in nature; 100 ft. in cultivation. Cones are small and numerous. The largest hemlock, with long, slender, often fluted trunk; narrow, conical crown of short, slender, horizontal or slightly drooping branches; and very slender, curved and drooping leader.

Western Hemlock is one of the most common trees in the Pacific Northwest, forming vast, dense groves. This important timber species is one of the best pulpwoods and a source of alpha cellulose for making cellophane, rayon yarns, and plastics. Indians of southeastern Alaska used to make coarse bread from the inner bark.

 

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf: Green
Fruit:
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Purple
Bloom Time: Apr

Distribution

USA: AK , CA , ID , MT , OR , WA
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: AK to n.w. CA, e. to MT
Native Habitat: Moist, alluvial areas; wooded slopes below 2000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: None
Soil Description: Moist to mesic soils.
Conditions Comments: Western hemlock responds best in areas with high humidity and low summer temperatures. Seedlings do well in shade.

Benefit

Use Other: Quileute used a hemlock-bark solution for tanning hides and soaking spruce-root baskets to make them water tight. (pojar/mackinnon)
Some Coast Squalish people used a red dye made from hemlock bark to colour mountain-goat wool and basket materials, and as a facial cosmetic and hair remover. (pojar/mackinnon)
Kwakwakawakw steeped bark in urine to make a black dye. Nuxalk, Chehalis and others used the bark steeped in water to colour fish nets brown, making them invisible to fish. (pojar/mackinnon)
Snohomish used the dye to colour basket materials. A yellow-orange paint was prepared by the Quinault from mashed hemlock bark mixed with salmon eggs; this was used to colour dip-nets and paddles. (pojar/mackinnon).
Wood carved into spoons, roasting spits, dip-nets poles, combs, spearshafts, wedges, childrenss bows and elderberry picking hooks. Haida made large feast bowls from bent trees. Nisgaa used hemlock twigs to form the rims of birch-bark baskets. (pojar/makinnon)
Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth used the bows for collecting herring spawn to be eaten fresh or dried. Mainland Comox used the boughs for lining steaming pits. Kwakwakawakw dancers wore skirts, headdresses, and head-bands of hemlock boughs, and young women lived in hemlock-bough huts for four days after their first menstruation. (pojar/makinnon)
Medicinal: Used by most groups on the Northwest Coast. Hemlock pitch was applied topically for a variety of purposes, including poultices or poultice coverings, linaments rubbed on the chest for colds and when mixed with deer tallow as a salve to prevent sunburn. The Nuu-chah-nulth drank a hemlock-bark tea, sometimes mixed with bark of cascara and red alder, for internal injuries and haemorrhaging. (pojar/mackinnon)
Food: The inner bark of hemlock was eaten by Haida, Tsimshian, Nuxlk and other central and northern coastal peoples. Ditidaht hunters and other travellers sometimes chewed on the young branch-tips of hemlock as a hunger suppressant when they were without food. (pojar/mackinnon)
Fragrant Foliage: yes

Propagation

Description: Layering has proven successful, as has propagation by seed and cuttings. Cuttings must be treated and kept under mist.
Seed Collection: Cones mature in one season.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

National Wetland Indicator Status

Region:AGCPAKAWCBEMPGPHIMWNCNEWMVE
Status: FAC FACU FACU
This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA

Additional resources

USDA: Find Tsuga heterophylla in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Tsuga heterophylla in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Tsuga heterophylla

Metadata

Record Modified: 2007-01-01
Research By: TWC Staff

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