Western Hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

Western Hemlock
Spring new growth on Hemlock
Western Hemlock
A limb showing the new growth which will darken over time. The leader is characteristically droopy sometimes hanging clear over and pointing down but it stiffens and straightens as it grows.
Western Hemlock Bark
Western Hemlock Bark

The Western Hemlock like the Red Alder shares a growth range west of the Cascades in the Douglas Fir region of the Pacific Coast of North America. Unlike the Douglas fir or Alder which needs a disturbance to get started and grows rapidly in the early years to compensate for its shade intolerance, the Western Hemlock which is the largest of the hemlock family will often start in a heavily shaded forest floor littered with duff and forest debris and grow persistently right up through the Douglas Fir and Alder eventually shading it out and killing it. It is thus known as a "Climax species" because within the forest cycle, it and Red Cedar will often ultimately dominate, but perhaps not for hundreds of years after a forest disturbance.

It should be noted though that the level to which it thrives and overwhelms Douglas Fir varies considerably based on local micro climate characteristics.

It is generally less valued for lumber than the Douglas Fir. The lumber needs to be dried and kept dry or else pressure treated, or it deteriorates fairly quickly. Treated it holds up well and is often used for porches and decks where it will be open to the weather.

- - Updated 12/20/2012
- - Updated 06/15/2008
- - Updated 05/22/2008