Landowner Fact Sheets

western hemlock Tsuga heterophylla

Western hemlock is a valuable conifer native to humid areas of the Pacific Northwest and the upper Rockies. On similar sites, the growth of western hemlock exceeds that of Douglas-fir. Western hemlock's wood properties are very conducive to quality lumber and pulp products.

range map Click to see more images. wood grain

Western hemlock is very tolerant of shade and can be regenerated by group and single tree selection, seed-tree, shelterwood, and clearcut methods. Suppressed (understory) trees, up to 60 years old, will respond well to release.

Prefers deep, moist, well-drained soils. Grows from sea level to upper elevations.


A large evergreen conifer that reaches 200 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter, mature trees have a pyramidal crown and lacy foliage that droops at the terminal ends.

Timber Value
Western hemlock is used for construction lumber, pilings, poles, railroad ties, pulpwood, etc.

Wildlife Value
Deer and elk browse the foliage. Rabbits, snowshoe hares and beavers consume the stems of seedlings. Cavity nesting birds often reside in western hemlocks.
Attracts black bear, deer, elk, rabbits, snowshoe hares, beaver, vole, flying squirrel, northern spotted owl. sapsuckers, woodpeckers

Insects and Diseases

Fun Facts
Very tolerant of shade, but not tolerant of drought. Does occur in pure stands, but more often mixed with Douglas-fir, true firs, and Sitka spruce. Thin bark makes it susceptible to damage by logging and fire. Important pulpwood species. Western hemlock is the primary source of alpha cellulose fiber, used in the manufacture of rayon, cellophane, and many plastics.

Latin Meaning
Tsuga: Japanese name / heterophylla: Greek "hetero" (different) "phylla" (leaf) - with variable leaves

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Landowner Factsheets © 2004 Virginia Tech Forestry Department, all rights reserved. Text, images, and programming by: Dr. Jeff Kirwan, Dr. John R. Seiler, John A. Peterson, Edward C. Jensen, Guy Phillips, or Andrew S. Meeks.