Hemlock, Eastern

Hemlock, Eastern

Tsuga CanadensisConiferous

Origin: Native to Eastern U.S., Canada.

Eastern hemlock is a shade-tolerant native of the eastern US growing from Minnesota to Maine and south to the higher elevations of Georgia. The tree is not abundant in Nebraska but is occasionally found in protected landscape plantings, especially where a shade-tolerant evergreen is desired. 

Eastern Hemlock
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Where To Grow

Eastern hemlock can be grown in protected locations across Nebraska, but is best suited to the eastern half of the state where soil moisture is more consistent and abrupt temperature swings are less severe. Best sited in part shade in sheltered locations protected from strong drying winds and hot afternoon sun. Hemlock’s graceful form makes it a good foundation planting against larger homes and buildings. Eastern hemlock generally does not tolerate nutrient-poor soils, heavy/wet soils or poorly drained sites. It is also not tolerant of prolonged heat or drought.
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Suitable to plant east of the 100th meridian.
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Size at Maturity

Tree Height Tree Spread
15-30' 10-15'
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Tree Characteristics

Hemlock generally has a broadly conical and open crown with feathery branches that often droop at the ends. Over time its naturally open habit becomes more pronounced. The needles are flat, ½ to 1” long, dark green above and glaucous below giving it a two-toned appearance. The needles are also two-ranked (opposite each other on the same plane) and somewhat resemble Douglas fir. The twigs are yellow-brown and densely pubescent. The bark is brownish, scaly and fissured. Seed cones are ovoid, 1.5-2.5 cm long, borne near the branch tips, hanging. 

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Wildlife Benefits

Eastern hemlock stands are considered important as shelter and cover for white-tailed deer and other wildlife species, such as turkey, ruffed grouse, and others.

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The lumber is used for general construction and crates. Because of its unusual power of holding spikes, it is also used for railroad ties. 

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Additional Considerations

Hemlock is susceptible to winter burn and wind-throw when planted on open sites. Although the tree can live for centuries in native woods, it is becoming decimated by the Hemlock woolly adelgid in the southern part of its range.  The adelgid is a small, white, sap-sucking insect native to Japan. 

Numerous cultivars of Eastern hemlock have been developed, including compact shrubs, dwarfs, weeping and upright types, variegated in color, and graceful trees. The tree can be used as a specimen, screen, or in group planting. It can be pruned over time into a formal evergreen hedge. 

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Related species

Although there are other hemlock species in North America and also in Asia, they’re not considered suitable for planting in Nebraska. 

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Interesting Facts

American Indians used the cambium as the base for bread and soups or mixed it with dried fruit and animal fat for pemmican. Natives and white settlers also made tea from hemlock leaves, which have a high vitamin C content.

Additional Images

Eastern Hemlock
Eastern Hemlock