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Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society

Focusing on native plants and conservation in North Idaho

Western Hemlock

Common Name(s): Western Hemlock, Pacific Hemlock, West Coast Hemlock

Scientific Name: Tsuga heterophlla  "Heterophylla" means variable leaves.

Plant Symbol:  Tshe; TSHE

General Info: Large conifer 30-50 m (100-160 ft) tall; trunk to 75 cm diameter.  Open pyramidal crown has a flexible and drooping terminal leader.  Delicate feathery foliage on drooping branches.  Largest hemlock native to US.  In interior, obtains maximum age of 500 years.

Native/ Non-native:  Native.

Ecology:  Widespread and common, preferring acidic soils with thick mulch.  Often sprouts in decaying logs and stumps.  Very shade-tolerant, but not tolerant of drought.

Range:  Western US and Canada:  California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana.

Bark: When young, bark is russet brown or grayish brown, somewhat scaly.  As trees age, furrows develop separated by relatively thin flat ridges.  Orange inner bark, sometimes streaked with purple.

Leaves: Needles are yellowish green and flat, blunt, in variable lengths.  Arranged in flat, feathery sprays.

Cones: Elliptical 1 to 3 cm  (1/2 in to 1 in) long. Purplish green when young, light brown when mature. Cones hang on short stalks which when they fall are intact.  Scales are thin, with wavy edges.


  • A very attractive tree for landscaping.

  • Wood is even grained and uniform in color.  Used for doors, windows, staircases, moulding, and flooring.

  • Moderately susceptible to fire.

Resources/ Links:

Field Guide to Forest Plants of Northern Idaho (Patterson, Neiman, Tonn), 1985 USDA – Forest Service

Plants of Southern Interior British Colombia and the Inland Northwest (Parish, Coupe, Lloyd), 1996

Above:  The Enchantment of old Western Hemlocks

Below:  Young Western Hemlock


Below:  Orange furrows in the bark


Needles of different lengths...


Photos by Wendy Aeschliman