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Canadian Hemlock

This handsome and graceful evergreen hedge is ideal for screening, groupings, and foundation plantings. It has medium- to dark-green needles are about 0.5" long. The small evergreen needles and thin wispy horizontal stems that turn down at the ends combine to yield a very fine-textured and gracefully branching pyramidal tree, that can be sheared for improved density.

The Canadian hemlock may be sheared to any height or shape and likes full sun to light shade. Doesn't care for heavy clay soils and instead likes acidic, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained soils. If left natural, it can grow up to 40' — 70'. For a hedge effect, plant about 2' apart (zones 3 — 8)

In the wild, Canadian hemlock grows on cool slopes, rocky ridges and ravines, often in pure stands. It is both slow-growing and long-lived; an individual tree may live to be several hundred years old.

In the garden hemlocks make good background plants and can be maintained at almost any height. For this reason, they make excellent informal hedges.

Hemlocks also make god wildlife trees. The dense low foliage of young trees provide good winter cover for many birds and other animals. Birds that seek out hemlocks for nesting include veeries, black-throated blue warblers, and northern juncos.

Wildlife value

The Hemlock provides excellent cover for deer and songbirds. Nesting site for several warblers. Seeds are eaten by juncos, chickadees, and siskins.

It can be used either as a specimen tree, in screening, or a group planting.

The species form can be sheared over time into a formal evergreen hedge, which is very dense with foliage all the way to the ground (due to its shade tolerance)

The Canadian hemlock is often incorrectly used as a windbreak in exposed sites (where it exhibits dieback from Winter winds), as a roadside screen planting (where it is severely damaged from Winter salt spray), or as a foundation shrub (where, with proper care, it eventually gets far too big for its site, unless it is annually pruned or sheared to keep it in-bounds).

Canadian hemlock is not recommended for extreme southern climates.

Medicinal uses

Canadian hemlock is almost a complete first aide kit for the homeowner willing to do a little work in preparing a variety of concoctions.

The Canadian hemlock was commonly employed medicinally by several native North American Indian tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is still sometimes used in modern herbalism where it is valued for its astringent and antiseptic properties.

The Canadian hemlock bark is rich in tannin and as such it is astringent and antiseptic. Historically, it has been used in the treatment of diarrhea, colitis, diverticulitis and cystitis. Externally, it has been 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. The poultice has also been applied to the armpits to treat itchiness.

The inner bark is diaphoretic and styptic. An infusion is used in the treatment of colds and abdominal pains. A decoction of the inner bark has been applied externally in the treatment of eczema and other skin conditions. The pulverized inner bark has been applied to cuts and wounds to stop the bleeding.

A tea made from the leafy twig tips is used in the treatment of dysentery, kidney ailments, colds and rheumatism. Externally, it is used in steam baths for treating colds, rheumatism and to induce sweating. A decoction of the branches has been boiled down to a syrup or thick paste and used as a poultice on arthritic joints. A poultice of the crushed branch tips has been used to treat infections on an infants navel.

Similar tree: Leyland cypress


Specimen trees ideal for the American Landscape