Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (2022)

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Bloom Color: Green, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Pyramidal.

Physical Characteristics

Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (1)Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (2)
Tsuga canadensis is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4. It is in leaf all year, in flower in May, and the seeds ripen from November to February. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness MapUS Hardiness Map


Abies americana. A. canadensis. Pinus americana.


Woodland GardenCanopy;Ground Cover;Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner barkShoots
Edible Uses: CondimentTea

Inner bark - raw or cooked[213]. Usually harvested in the spring[2], it can be dried, ground into a powder and then used as a thickening in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread[2, 46, 161]. An emergency food, it is only used when all else fails[183]. The leaves and twigs yield 'spruce oil', used commercially to flavour chewing gum, soft drinks, ice cream etc[183]. A herbal tea is made from the young shoot tips[2, 62, 95, 159, 183, 257]. These tips are also an ingredient of 'spruce beer'[183].

ReferencesMore on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Canadian hemlock was commonly employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints[257]. It is still sometimes used in modern herbalism where it is valued for its astringent and antiseptic properties. The bark is rich in tannin and is astringent and antiseptic[222, 254]. A decoction is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, colitis, diverticulitis and cystitis[254]. Externally, it is used as a poultice to cleanse and tighten bleeding wounds, as a douche to treat excessive vaginal discharge, thrush and a prolapsed uterus, and as a mouthwash and gargle for gingivitis and sore throats[222, 254]. The poultice has also been applied to the armpits to treat itchiness there[257]. The inner bark is diaphoretic and styptic[21, 213, 257]. An infusion is used in the treatment of colds and abdominal pains[21, 213, 257]. A decoction of the inner bark has been applied externally in the treatment of eczema and other skin conditions[257]. The pulverized inner bark has been applied to cuts and wounds to stop the bleeding[257]. A tea made from the leafy twig tips is used in the treatment of dysentery, kidney ailments, colds and rheumatism[21, 222, 257]. Externally, it is used in steam baths for treating colds, rheumatism and to induce sweating[222]. A decoction of the branches has been boiled down to a syrup or thick paste and used as a poultice on arthritic joints[257]. A poultice of the crushed branch tips has been used to treat infections on an infants navel[257]. Hemlock pitch has been used externally as a counter-irritant in the treatment of rheumatism[213].

ReferencesMore on Medicinal Uses

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Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (3)

Other Uses


Yields a resin similar to Abies balsamea, it is gathered by incisions in the trunk or by boiling the wood[46, 61, 64]. A pitch (called hemlock pitch), is obtained by distillation of the young branches[46]. 'Oil of Hemlock' is distilled from the young branches according to another report[82]. The bark contains 8 - 14% tannin[46, 171, 223]. The inner bark is used according to one report[82]. The inner bark has been used in making baskets[257]. A red to brown dye is obtained from the bark[21, 46, 257]. A red dye is obtained from the inner bark according to another report[226]. A little rock dust has been added to act as a mordant when boiling the bark[257]. The boiled bark has been used to make a wash to clean rust off iron and steel, and to prevent further rusting[257]. Tolerant of light trimming, plants can be grown as a hedge[81]. This species does not make a good hedge in Britain[200]. Some cultivars can be grown as a ground cover when planted about 1 metre apart each way[208]. 'Pendula' is slow-growing but makes a very good cover[208]. Wood - coarse-grained, light, soft, not strong, brittle, not durable outdoors[21, 46, 61, 82, 171, 229]. Difficult to work because it splits easily[226]. The wood weighs 26lb per cubic foot[235]. The trees do not self-prune and so the wood contains numerous remarkably hard knots that can quickly dull the blade of an axe[226]. A coarse lumber, it is used occasionally for the outside of buildings[21, 46, 61, 82, 171, 229]. It should be used with caution as a fuel for outdoor fires because it can project embers and burning wood several metres from the fire[226].

Special Uses

Food ForestGround coverHedgeHedgeScented Plants

ReferencesMore on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Firewood, Hedge, Aggressive surface roots possible, Massing, Screen, Specimen, Woodland garden. An easily grown plant, it thrives best when growing in a deep well-drained soil in the western parts of Britain where it appreciates the higher rainfall[11]. However, it succeeds in most soils and positions, being especially good on acidic sandy soils[81] but also tolerating some lime[11] so long as there is plenty of humus in the soil[208]. Plants are very shade tolerant when young, but need more sunlight as they grow older[81, 200]. Plants are thin and poor when grown in dry or exposed places[200]. A slow-growing but long-lived species in the wild, with specimens nearly 1000 years old recorded[229]. It is occasionally planted as a timber tree in Germany[50]. It is very slow growing in cultivation for the first few years, it then grows more rapidly with annual shoots up to 60cm long. This rate of growth soon slows as the tree loses apical dominance and it becomes slow growing again[185]. Seed production commences around the age of 20 - 40 years, with good crops produced every 3 - 4 years[229]. The crushed foliage has a sweet lemony scent[185]. Another report says that it emits the unpleasant smell of hemlock[245]. Many named forms have been selected for their ornamental value[185]. Almost all of them are dwarf forms[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features:Attracts birds, North American native, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.

ReferencesCarbon Farming Information andCarbon Sequestration Information

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Seed - it germinates better if given a short cold stratification[80, 113] and so is best sown in a cold frame in autumn to late winter. It can also be sown in early spring, though it might not germinate until after the next winter. If there is sufficient seed, an outdoor sowing can be made in spring[78]. Pot-grown seedlings are best potted up into individual pots once they are large enough to handle - grow them on in a cold frame and plant them out in early summer of the following year. Trees transplant well when they are up to 80cm tall, but they are best put in their final positions when they are about 30 - 45 cm or less tall, this is usually when they are about 5 - 8 years old[200]. Larger trees will check badly and hardly put on any growth for several years. This also badly affects root development and wind resistance[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (5)

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Pseudotsuga menziesiiDouglas Fir, Rocky Mountain Douglas-firTree75.0 3-6 FLMHNMWe223
Tsuga carolinianaCarolina HemlockTree15.0 4-7 SLMHFSNM122
Tsuga chinensisChinese HemlockTree45.0 5-9 SLMHFSNM122
Tsuga heterophyllaWestern HemlockTree70.0 6-7 FLMHFSNM122
Tsuga mertensianaMountain HemlockTree45.0 5-7 MLMHFSNM123

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.

Tsuga canadensis Canadian Hemlock, Eastern hemlock PFAF Plant Database (6)

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Readers comment


Is Eastern Hemlock the same as Canadian hemlock? ›

Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), also called Canada hemlock or hemlock spruce, is a slow-growing long-lived tree which unlike many trees grows well in shade. It may take 250 to 300 years to reach maturity and may live for 800 years or more.

Do Canadian hemlocks grow fast? ›

Growth Rate

This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12" to 24" per year.

How much does Canadian hemlock cost? ›

Canadian HemlockTsuga canadensis. $24.95. See how our plants are shipped to you!

Can Canadian hemlocks grow in shade? ›

Canadian hemlock requires moist, acidic soil with good drainage. It can be grown in full sun or shade. It grows in rocky areas (not limestone) where a great deal of organic matter is present. This tree tolerates shade well and is suitable for dense shade if unsheared plants are used.

Can hemlock hurt you if you touch it? ›

It's also very toxic for humans. Simply touching the plant can make you sick.” Poison hemlock features white, umbrella shaped flower clusters with fern-like leaves.

Is it poisonous to touch hemlock? ›

Poison hemlock isn't like poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. You usually won't get a rash from touching it. Most of the time, hemlock is only poisonous if ingested.

How far apart should I plant Canadian hemlock? ›

Plant in spring or summer on well-drained, moist soils. Avoid hot, dry windy locations and areas where there is air pollution and salt spray, such as close to a road. Space plants 30 to 40 feet apart; closer for dwarf forms or if grown in a hedge. Keep trees well watered.

Do hemlocks have deep roots? ›

Foliage is dense on healthy trees, often somewhat drooping; healthy, mature trees cast some of the densest shade of any conifers. Bark of mature trees has long, vertically-oriented ridges and plates. Root system is shallow and wide-spreading.

Do hemlocks need a lot of water? ›

Hemlock trees require a fair amount of water. They can tolerate less favorable conditions (partial sun in average soils of alkaline pH) if sufficient supplemental water is given during the dry periods of summer, but the soil must be well-drained.

How long will hemlock last in the ground? ›

Hemlock is locally widely used for raised garden beds, fencing, and barn construction and repair. There is no guarantee as to how long the wood will last in the ground, but in the right conditions, some people report that it lasts 5 to 7 years.

Where do hemlock trees grow best? ›

Planting Requirements - Eastern Hemlock achieves its best growth in evenly moist, acidic, organic, rich, well-drained soils in partial shade to partial sun.

Is hemlock good for anything? ›

Despite serious safety concerns, hemlock leaves, root, and seeds are used to make medicine. It is used for breathing problems including bronchitis, whooping cough, and asthma; and for painful conditions including teething in children, swollen and painful joints, and cramps. Hemlock is also used for anxiety and mania.

Is Canadian hemlock poisonous to dogs? ›

Hemlock can refer either to Conium maculatum, commonly known as poison hemlock, or to the four plants in the Cicuta family, known collectively as water hemlock. The toxins in both plants are dangerous to many animals, including canines.

Can you keep hemlock trees small? ›

If the hemlock is growing vigorously, it can be pruned again in late spring or very early summer to keep it from getting too large. Except in the case of emergency pruning, which can be done any time of the year to remove damaged, broken or diseased wood, do not prune a hemlock in the summer or fall.

How far apart should you plant hemlock trees? ›

Plant trees at 4 feet apart or in a hedge Planting – The best time to plant hemlocks is in early spring. Hemlocks can be sensitive if planted in the fall and extra care should be taken to water, fertilize, and protect from winter salt spray. Plant with the root flare 2 to 4 inches above the soil.

Do you smile when you are poisoned by hemlock plant? ›

Other Facts. The term sardonic grin comes from the grisley practice in Phoenician Sardinia of disposing of criminals and old people using Hemlock Water Dropwort. The poison acts by constricting the muscles causing death by asphixia which also causes a rictus like death grin, the sardonic grin.

Can hemlock be absorbed through the skin? ›

The toxins can also be absorbed through the skin and lungs, so be sure to wear gloves and a mask when handling these plants.

Is hemlock poisonous to dogs? ›

Is Poison Hemlock Toxic to Dogs? Poison hemlock is toxic, when ingested, to people, livestock and, yes, cats and dogs. However, only livestock, who may get it mixed up with hay or eat it in large amounts in a field, are likely to eat enough to cause severe poisoning, Schmid says.

How long does it take for hemlock to affect you? ›

Poison-hemlock is acutely toxic to people and animals, with symptoms appearing 20 minutes to three hours after ingestion. All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years.

What happens if you smoke hemlock? ›

Several articles recommend burning hemlock after pulling, but the smoke may contain toxins that could cause severe illness and even death. Be sure to wear appropriate gloves, as contact dermatitis is possible.

What does hemlock smell like? ›

Poison hemlock often has a bad smell described as like "mouse urine" or "musty". The naturally occurring poisons, most notably coniine, are in all parts of the plant. Poison hemlock belongs to the same plant family (Apiaceae) as carrots, parsnips, fennel, and dill.

Can you cut the top off a hemlock? ›

A: Hemlocks tolerate trimming and shearing better than most evergreens. The ideal time is the end of winter, just before new growth begins. You could trim in winter, but the more you cut, the barer it'll look for a longer period of time until new growth resumes again in spring to fill in.

Can hemlock take full sun? ›

Hemlocks do not thrive under hot, dry conditions. They grow well in partial shade and will tolerate full shade. Hemlocks also grow well in full sun if their soil requirements are met.

Are hemlock trees good for landscaping? ›

Landscape Ideas

Call on hemlock to create a living screen on a property line or near a patio or porch. Its graceful branches will mask views in and out of your yard 12 months a year. Shade-tolerant hemlock is especially useful for planting in the shadow of taller trees.

Are hemlocks good trees? ›

In addition to being a foundation species, hemlocks are also a climax species. This means that they represent a mature and very productive forest ecosystem. Hemlocks are slow-growing and very shade-tolerant, taking a long time to reach the canopy and dominate their forest sites.

Are hemlock trees good for privacy? ›

Canadian Hemlocks are perfect for adding privacy to your yard. They tolerate heavy pruning and can be sheared to the size and shape you desire. Plant about 10 feet apart for a dense hedge. Stagger for a quicker privacy solution.

What can I plant under a hemlock tree? ›

A full-grown hemlock tree is very tall, which means that companion plants should do well in shady areas. Hemlocks are also a little aggressive and can kill some plant varieties. For this reason, strong hardy plants like Hostas, Sweet Woodruffs, Lily of the Valley, or Ivory Sedge, among other choices.

What do you do if you touch the water hemlock? ›

Though Healthline states that there is no known antidote to hemlock poisoning, if you think you may have touched any part of the plant, breathed in its particles, or been otherwise exposed, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Do deer eat hemlock trees? ›

Deer will also eat hemlock foliage and twigs as high up as they can reach. Porcupines prefer hemlock and will eat the bark and chew off large twigs. If you see scattered hemlock twigs or tips in the snow, look up.

Are hemlocks easy to grow? ›

Once established, hemlocks require little care, but establishing them can be a challenge. They need acidic soils that stay moist, but not wet, and frequent waterings.

How deep are the roots of a hemlock tree? ›

The soil organic horizon under mature stands ranges from less than 7 to more than 57 cm (2.8 to 22.5 in); the average depth increases from 11.4 cm (4.5 in) on soils with good drainage to 43.2 cm (17.0 in) on poorly drained soils.

How much is a hemlock tree worth? ›

For a person who wants to buy hemlock for construction,&bsp; sawn, air dried rough hemlock lumber sells for $. 90 a board foot($900/thousand bd. ft.). Kiln dried lumber will bring $1.00 board foot and planed lumber will add another 10 cents per board foot.

Does hemlock last longer than pine? ›

Treated hemlock will last just as long (50 years) as treated southern yellow pine, though the treatments are different, says Bumby.

What is the most poisonous part of the hemlock plant? ›

The leaves are particularly poisonous in the spring, up until it produces flowers. The roots of poison hemlock can easily be mistaken for wild parsnips, while the leaves can be mistaken for parsley. This is the primary culprit for accidental poisoning.

What animals eat eastern hemlock? ›

White-tailed deer, porcupines, snowshoe hares, northern flickers, black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches feed on the bark, branch tips and seeds of hemlock trees.

What is killing the hemlock trees? ›

The hemlock woolly adelgid feeds on the sap at the base of hemlock needles, disrupting nutrient flow and causing the needles to change from deep green to a grayish green, then fall off. Without needles the tree starves to death, usually within three to five years of the initial attack.

What part of the body does hemlock affect? ›

The general symptoms of hemlock poisoning are effects on nervous system (stimulation followed by paralysis of motor nerve endings and CNS stimulation and later depression), vomiting, trembling, problems in movement, slow and weak later rapid pulse, rapid respiration, salivation, urination, nausea, convulsions, coma and ...

Why does water hemlock make you smile? ›

Phytochemical analysis of Oenanthe crocata, or hemlock water-dropwort, a perennial that thrives near Sardinian ponds and rivers, revealed that toxic alcohols in the plant can cause facial muscles to contract, sometimes contorting into a sinister smile.

What is the most toxic plant in the world? ›

The oleander, also known as laurel of flower or trinitaria, is a shrub plant (of Mediterranean origin and therefore, resistant to droughts) with intensely green leaves and whose leaves, flowers, stems, branches and seeds are all highly poisonous, hence it is also known as "the most poisonous plant in the world".

Is hemlock poisonous when dead? ›

All parts of the plant are poisonous and even the dead canes remain toxic for up to three years.

How much hemlock is poisonous to humans? ›

Ingesting more than 150–300 milligrams of coniine, approximately equivalent to six to eight hemlock leaves, can be fatal for adult humans. The seeds and roots are also toxic, more so than the leaves.

What happens if you mow poison hemlock? ›

Mechanical: Caution: toxins can be inhaled when mowing poison hemlock. Mowing is not recommended due to risk of breathing in toxins. In addition, cut plants can regrow.

How do I stop my hemlock from growing? ›

An herbicide containing a 41% or higher concentration of glyphosate should be used, and it should be mixed to a 2% product spray solution. Glyphosate will kill grass and other vegetation so care should be taken if used around desired vegetation.

Do hemlock trees lose their leaves in the winter? ›

Eastern hemlocks are evergreen trees, meaning they have leaves (needles) at all times, an adaptation to northern climates, giving them the potential to photosynthesize whenever the conditions are suitable.

Do hemlock trees lose their needles? ›

Every year, many needled evergreens develop symptoms of needle yellowing and browning, tip dieback and needle drop, poor vigor, and even death. Pine, yew, hemlock, and juniper are among those commonly affected.

How long do hemlock trees last? ›

Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), also called Canada hemlock or hemlock spruce, is a slow-growing long-lived tree which unlike many trees grows well in shade. It may take 250 to 300 years to reach maturity and may live for 800 years or more.

What is the best fertilizer for hemlock trees? ›

A: Hemlocks do best with slow-release fertilizers like cottonseed meal or composted chicken manure. For cottonseed meal (6-2-1 analysis), spread eight pounds per 100 sq. ft. over the root zone of the trees.

Are there different types of hemlock plants? ›

There are four different varieties, with spotted water hemlock (Cicuta maculata) being the most common.

Are there different varieties of hemlock? ›

A tale of two Hemlocks

Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) is found in the Pacific northwest and generally occurs in coastal temperate rainforests. Other hemlock (Tsuga) species occur in Japan/China/Korea. Distribution of western hemlock.

How do I know if I have an eastern hemlock? ›

Needles have 2 white "racing stripes" on the underside. Fir needles have similar stripes. Conical to egg-shaped (more or less); fine branches give this tree a lacier appearance than spruce, fir or pine.

What is eastern hemlock good for? ›

Eastern hemlock is a plant. The bark is used as medicine. People use eastern hemlock for conditions such as digestive disorders, diarrhea, a disease caused by vitamin C-deficiency (scurvy), and diseases of the mouth and throat, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

What part of hemlock is the most poisonous? ›

All parts of the plant are toxic, especially the seeds and roots, and especially when ingested.

What plant is mistaken for hemlock? ›

Flowering poison-hemlock may be confused with wild carrot (Daucus carota, or Queen Anne's Lace).

What zone does hemlock grow in? ›

Eastern hemlock usually grows from 40 to 70 feet tall, though it can reach 100 feet or more. Its beautiful foliage and form, as well as its hardiness and longevity, make it one of the most attractive of all the American conifers. (Grows in hardiness zones 3 to 8.)

Is Eastern hemlock rare? ›

Tsuga canadensis (eastern hemlock) is one of Minnesota's rarest and most imperiled trees. It was rare even before the era of unrestrained logging and slash fires changed the composition of Minnesota's forests, and it has fared poorly since.

Is hemlock a valuable wood? ›

Hemlock is used primarily as a construction timber, and is in good supply. Expect prices to be moderate for a domestic softwood.

Where do eastern hemlock trees grow best? ›

Planting Requirements - Eastern Hemlock achieves its best growth in evenly moist, acidic, organic, rich, well-drained soils in partial shade to partial sun.

Do birds like hemlock trees? ›

Hemlock trees are an important nesting site and food source for numerous birds, including blue jays, chickadees, grackles, juncos, and goldfinches. While hemlocks may be preferred to other species of tree, many of these birds can continue to maintain their populations without them.

Is hemlock stronger than pine? ›

Although the US Forestry Service, as stated above, doesn't see Eastern Hemlock as a particularly strong or rot resistant, it is the local “go to” wood for a number of uses. It is much stronger and harder than pine. It is used as cribbing (jacking timbers) and in situations requiring high strength.

Is hemlock good for outdoor use? ›

It's popular both for indoor and outdoor projects thanks to its ability to hold paint and glue very well and deter pests because of its natural smells. It is resistant to shrinkage and can have a longer lifespan because it's less prone to splinting or even cracking.

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