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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock

(Tsuga canadensis (L) Carr)

  Hemlock, sometimes known as hemlock spruce or spruce pine, is common along streams and on cool slopes throughout the mountains and extends somewhat into the adjoining regions.

The flat needles are round-tipped, 1/3 to 2/3 inches long and are marked on the lower surface with two pale lines (stomata). The needles narrow at the base to form short, slender stems that are attached to rounded, dark orange-colored, persistent, woody pads on the twigs. The pendant cones grow on short, slender stalks from the tips of branchlets, usually remaining on the tree until the following spring.

Hemlock is remarkably tolerant to shading by larger trees; many remain in the understory in natural stands for 25 to 200 years. It is a long-lived tree -­individual trees more than 500 years old are common.

The tree may reach a height of 60 to 100 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 to 4 feet. It often has a broad-based pyramid shape. Ends of branches often are drooping and "feathery." The bark on old trunks is dark gray and is divided into narrow, deeply furrowed, rounded ridges. The wood is light, soft, brittle and difficult to work. It is used for rough or construction lumber and for pulpwood.

The Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana Engelm) differs from the eastern hemlock in that its needles are much more whorled about the twig giving it a rougher less flat appearance than the eastern hemlock.

The cone scales of the Carolina hemlock are narrow, and much longer than they are wide. Both the cones and leaves are longer than those of eastern hemlock.

Carolina hemlock grows on dry, rocky ridges and cliffs along the Blue Ridge mountains and in northeastern Tennessee. It is a very desirable tree for ornamental planting.
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