Western hemlock is a shade-tolerant tree that can
grow to a height of 200 feet (60 meters). The branchlets tend to droop
and the leader at the top of the tree curves and droops
over rather than standing straight, like firs and spruces.
Western hemlock has distinctive short, flat needles that are
on the twig, but irregular and variable in length. The needles have
white lines on the lower
are usually less than an inch long, and the scales are thin and
rounded. Western Hemlock is a prolific producer of cones. You can often
find them even on the lower branches. If you look closely in the
spring, you may also find some tiny pollen cones hiding in the needles.
The gray bark
develops small furrows
on large trees.
Where it grows: Western
hemlock is common in the lower
elevations of western Oregon and Washington, especially thriving in wet
regions. It also grows in northern Idao. It is shade tolerant,
often thriving in the shade of large Douglas
You will often see
a young western hemlock growing on a rotting stump or log. You can
older trees that started on these "nurse logs" by the airborne roots
that straddle an invisible nurse log. The tree continued to
grow after the nurse log rotted away. Western hemlock is the
is an important timber species, used to make lumber and plywood. The
pulp is used to make high-quality paper and is the source for making
cellophane, rayon, and plastics.
Names: Heterophylla, Greek
for "variable leaves," aptly describes the variable length and
orientation of western hemlock needles. If you think of the needles as
heterogeneous, you can remember the scientific name. Other common
names: Pacific hemlock and West