Western Hemlock Tree: Recognize the Western Hemlock in the Pacific Northwest with these photos and descriptions, plus uses for Western Hemlock products.
Designated the official Washington State tree in 1947, the beautiful Western Hemlock tree is not to be confused with the poisonous hemlock that killed Socrates. It's name, Tsuga heterophylla, is a combination of Japanese, Tsuga, meaning "tree" and "mother;" and the Greek word heterophylla, meaning "different leaves."
This is the largest of the hemlock species; it will grow up to 230 feet tall (70 m) and 9 feet (2.74 m) in diameter and can live up to 1,200 years.
Western Hemlocks are very shade tolerant and prefer the coastal temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest where there is at least 60 inches (152.4 cm) of annual rainfall per year. They are also found in the wetter areas of the Cascades and the Rocky Mountains.
Their companion trees include Mountain Hemlock, Western White Pine, Douglas and Silver Fir, Coastal Redwood and Sitka Spruce.
Associated understory species include vine maple, Oregon grape, ceanothus, salal, Oregon boxwood, salmonberry, many varieties of ferns, foamflower, trillium and violets, to name a few. Chanterelles and other edible fungi are especially happy at the feet of Western Hemlock trees.
The Western Hemlock is a versatile tree, not just for animals but also people.
Like all beauties, the Western Hemlock has its enemies.
The Western Hemlock that roots and grows near where water can pool will eventually tend toward heart rot. This is the tree that will blow down in a harsh winter storm. On the other hand, western hemlock trees fare very well when they root above the soil line on a nurse log or on even slightly sloped terrain.
There is an incredible diversity and amazing array of beauty found in the Pacific Northwest flora! In this region, wild plant life can present as ancient giants, microscopic wonders, intoxicatingly fragrant, some edible, healing, others quite poisonous. Splashes of brilliant in color, or shrouded and mysterious, each one, amazing in its uniqueness...
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