Eastern North America
Tall (100 ft / 31m) evergreen conifer with a straight non-forking trunk. Long-lived and able to grow in shade, it exhibits flat, deep green needle leaves with small cones.
Eastern hemlocks groves support wildlife in many ways. Birds make their homes high in the branches while bears and other mammals nest in hollowed-out trunks. All the animals benefit in the winter with the tigthly packed leaves that provide cover and thermal protection from the icy winds and snow. Their foliage feeds deer, moose, rabbits and other grazers, while their seeds feed birds and small rodents.
However, one of the most endearing reports that I’ve read came from the US forest service. In northeastern Minnesota black bear mothers and cubs spent 95% of their time within 600 feet of an eastern hemlock or an eastern white pine that had a girth over 20 inches. These long-lived forest giants can be climbed by the cubs, and mothers stuck close by because if danger came upon them the cub would shoot up the tree.
In 1951, the woolly adelgid, a pest that attacks the Eastern Hemlock and slowly suffocates it, was accidentally introduced to North America from Asia. Where it doesn't severely damage the trees in Asia, it kills the Eastern Hemlock that grows up the Appalachian Mountain Range from Georgia into Canada. Read more about the problem on our blog Hemlock Tree Extinction
In grade school we learn about Hemlock as the poison that killed Socrates, which is true, but Hemlock the plant is different from Hemlock the tree. European colonists named the tree Hemlock, because the leaves had a similar scent to the poisonous plant they knew from home. They are actually totally unrelated species. Hemlock the plant can kill humans, and it can even cause miscarriage in deer and other grazing animals. Common names can be confusing in the plant world, and are often misleading.
This is hemlock the plant. With its white flower heads it looks like something in the carrot family. It’s definitely not related to the 100 foot evergreen tree.