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Tsuga canadensis


Tsuga canadensis, commonly called Canadian hemlock or eastern hemlock, is a dense, pyramidal conifer of the pine family that is native to moist woods, cool slopes, rocky hillsides/ridges, wooded ravines, and stream valleys from eastern Canada south to Maine and Wisconsin and further south in the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia and Alabama.  It grows to 40-75’ tall in the wild with a trunk diameter of 2-4'.  Individual trees can live for quite a long time, often as long as 500 years.  This species is noted for having the smallest needles and cones in the genus.

Found in the Pinaceae family which is commonly known as the pine family. Is effected by the wooly adelgid. Commonly used for landscaping but has little to no value commercially.  

The Eastern hemlock grows in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade– it is a natural understory tree in wild stands.  It is best sited in part shade in sheltered locations protected from strong drying winds and hot afternoon sun.  It will tolerate full sun in cool northern climates, but dislikes the hot and humid summers of the deep South (particularly south of USDA Zone 6) where sunscald may damage the foliage when temperatures consistently exceed 95 degrees F.  It is intolerant of drought and should be watered regularly in prolonged dry spells, particularly when plants are young.  It appreciates a thick winter mulch.

Its lower branches often dip toward the ground. The thick and ridged bark on mature trees is red-brown to gray-brown.  Its wood, although soft and brittle, is harvested for lumber and pulp. 

It is similar in appearance to another native relative, T. caroliniana.  The trees can be told apart by the length of the leaves and structure of the stems, with T. Canadensis having shorter leaves and cones as well as leaves that lay flat along the stems.

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  A healthy plant in the proper environment has few problems. Potential disease problems for plants in the genus Tsuga include needle blight (needles turn yellow and die), canker, rusts, and rots. Potential insect problems include bagworms, borers, leaf miner, sawfly and spider mites. The foliage may scorch in very hot weather. A prolonged drought can be fatal to this tree.

Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) is a tiny (1/32”) sap-sucking insect (a relative of the aphid) that has recently become a serious threat to the survival of native hemlocks in the wild in the eastern United States. HWA was accidentally introduced into the U. S. in the 1920s from Eastern Asia. It has been known to exist in the Pacific Northwest since 1927 but was first observed in the forests of Virginia in the 1950s. It has now spread from Virginia into the southern and middle Appalachians. The inability to survive cold winters has so far substantially limited HWA’s northern spread to as far as Massachusetts, but northward expansion into much of New England is expected as winter temperatures continue to moderate. HWA has killed most of the old-growth hemlocks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and 95% of the hemlocks in Shenandoah National Park. HWA was discovered in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Park in November of 2013. Treatment of HWA is available (pesticides containing imidacloprid or dinotefuran), but control of this pest is very difficult.

Quick ID

  • Branches in flat planes
  • Linear leaves with 2 glaucous bands below
  • Occasional leaf upside-down along minor twigs
  • Pendulous ovoid cones from branches
Cultivars / Varieties:
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Cultivars / Varieties:
#evergreen#wildlife plant#native tree#conifer#shade tolerant#low maintenance#tsc#slope#playground#hedges#winter cover#small mammals#cpp#fire#high flammability#amphibians#deer resistant#fish#screens#children's garden#native garden#lumber#fantz
  • Attributes:
    Life Cycle:
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    E. Canada to N. Central & E. U.S.A.
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It provides winter and extreme weather coverage.  Red crossbills and small mammals eat the seeds.  Ruffled grouse eat the buds and white-tailed deer browse the foilage in winter.  It is an important thermal cover component along streams for amphibians and fish.
    Play Value:
    Pieces Used in Games
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This tree is moderately resistant to damage from deer.
    Height: 30 ft. 0 in. - 80 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Growth Rate:
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Available Space To Plant:
    24-60 feet
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The Eastern hemlock has small, pendant, short-stalked, seed-bearing cones (to 3/4" long) that are tan-brown in color. They grow from the tips of the branchlets and stay attached throughout the winter. The cones are shorter in length than T. caroliniana.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Flower Description:
    In the spring, small yellow male and small light green female flowers mature.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Leaf Type:
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Leaf Shape:
    Hairs Present:
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Flat sprays of lacy evergreen foliage give this tree a graceful form. Short, flat, dark green needles (to 9/16" long) with two white bands of stomata beneath arranged in two opposite rows. Its needles are attached to twigs by slender stalks ending with woody pads. The leaves are shorter and lay flatter than T. caroliniana. The leaves are small ½ inch glossy needles that have a white underside.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Bark Plate Shape:
    Bark Description:
    The thick and ridged bark on mature trees is red-brown to gray-brown.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Stem Description:
    Its lower branches often dip toward the ground, giving it a pendulous, drooping effect.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Shade Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Small Mammals
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade