Canadensis Species in the Spotlight: The Eastern Hemlock

The eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) fails as a Christmas tree. It drops its needles quickly after it is cut down. This leaves the species of canadensis without a Christmas tree for the holidays.

Native to our eastern Canadian landscape, the silent “t” Tsuga canadensis of the Pinaceae family, nicknamed the hemlock spruce or Canadian hemlock, is a non-flowering, needled evergreen tree type.

It has deep roots in our country’s heritage and so should be featured in the Garden of Canada by The Canadensis Botanical Garden Society. The tree’s bark has been used by settlers to form dyes, soup bases, bread bases and cures for various seasonal, bone and tissue conditions. Because of its tenacious grasp of spikes, it is used for railroad ties. The bark was later used commercially for its tannin to make leather – since replaced by mass-developed synthetic alternatives.

In modern times, herbalists and other communities continue to acknowledge the Tsuga canadensis’ Vitamin C and acidic healing qualities. It is also a preferred bark for mixing into mulch.

How has it been such a generous provider for so long? These gorgeous trees can take up to 300 years to reach maturity. They grow slowly to towering heights. They never stop giving all the while.

In the wild, this beautiful hemlock provides abundant shelter and food resources, especially in the wintertime. Porcupines, squirrels and various rodents feed off its bark, low-hanging twigs and seed droppings. Larger animals (e.g. white-tailed deer) and bird types (e.g. grouse) can shield themselves from unfavourable conditions and snowfall.

Significant threats against the tree include extreme heat or drought conditions, root rots and insects like bagworms, sawflies, spider mites and the sap-sucking hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA). Thankfully the HWAs don’t thrive in winter conditions.

For planting and care of Tsuga canadensis trees on your property, allow them to root in part or full-shade areas with well-drained soils and thick mulch. Over-exposure to the sun may cause fatal singing of its foliage. Extreme wind areas are also not recommended.

For spacing, these hemlocks can grow 25-35 feet across and up to 70 feet in height.

To treat exposure to HWA use pesticides with dinotefuran and imidacloprid ingredients. See if you can spot eastern hemlock in your neighbourhood. Look for tiny flat needles and beautiful feather-laid greenery on droopy branches. Tag us on Instagram at @canadensisgardenofcanada. We would love for you to donate to Canadensis: The Garden of Canada so that we can tell the story of all our native species.

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