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Tsuga canadensis

(Canada hemlock; Eastern hemlock)

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Although it’s light strong wood was used for framing, roof boards and pulp, hemlock was more difficult to work with than pine because of it’s tendency to split along the growth rings. Hemlock’s principal use from colonial times until the early twentieth century was for it’s bark which is high in tannin and was used in processing leather until synthetic tannins were developed.

The invasion of the Asian hemlock woolley adelgid (HWA), which has devastated large parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is moving steadily upwards along the Appalachians such that it can now be found in spots along the Maine coast, is having serious impact of the forest ecology of the northeast. With the hemlock’s die off there are no low growing evergreens to provide year round forage and shelter for animal life. In warmer weather, hemlock shades streams moderating the water temperature for amphibians and game fish. A predator insect that feeds on HWA has been found in Japan but propagating it in the US has been difficult and expensive.

Dwarf Tsuga canadensis in the home landscape is easily treatable for HWA with a variety of pesticides and horticultural oil but this remedy is not practical in the forest. Many northeastern states prohibit the importation of hemlock to its nurseries; only native grown cultivars, which require annual inspection, are allowed for sale in these states effectively cutting off the supply of interesting varieties for collectors.

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