Native Plant of the Month: Western Hemlock

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We are fortunate to live in an area abundant with evergreens. Winter especially highlights the western hemlock, as its broadleaved companions shed their leaves. When mentioning hemlock, most people think of the poisonous variety, but the western hemlock is not related!

The western hemlock, Washington’s state tree, grows up to 200 feet tall and four feet wide over their 200 to 400-year lifespan. Many, however, never reach that mature age due to the many human uses of the western hemlock, such as lumber, dies, and salves, chest rubs, and even sunscreen. Even the pulp contributes to the making of rayon fabric. This tree is part of our everyday lives in one form or another.

 

A distinctive droopy top can identify this lowland native. It has a varied needle length providing the flat spays with natural variation. The boughs have a green top and white bands underneath. Seed cones, which are one inch long and egg-shaped, adorn western hemlock. Though they often prefer moist areas as opposed to wet conditions, they are at home on the grounds of SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve and can be found throughout the Shadow Lake Bog.

Interested to learn more about this?

State Symbols USA: Western Hemlock, Washington State Tree

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service: Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg., Western Hemlock

USDA Forest Service: Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg., Western Hemlock