About Tsuga Canadensis
Canadian Hemlock usually grows to 40 to 70 feet tall in the wild, but can reach 100 feet tall. This species is noted for having the smallest needles and cones in the genus. Flat sprays of lacy evergreen foliage give this tree a graceful form. It has a conical crown of long, slender, horizontal branches often drooping down to the ground, and a slender, curved, and drooping leader. Gray-brown bark turns smooth, then scaly as it ages, older trees are red-brown with wide ridges and furrows. When cut or broken, purple streaks are obvious.
The bark was once a commercial source of tannin in the production of leather. These trees can easily be pruned and shaped and are common additions in landscaping Pioneers made tea from leafy twigs and brooms from the branches.
Habitat: Damp soil along streams, sides of glens or coves, northern slopes, borders of lakes, ponds and margins of swamps.
Identification: Evergreen tree
Leaves: Short dark green needles with silvery undersides taper to a dull point, less than 2 inches long, about 2 mm wide, with two white bands beneath arranged in two opposite rows. Needles are attached to twigs by slender stalks.
Flowers: Up to one inch long, egg-shaped, short-stalked, seed-bearing cones - male flowering cones are yellowish-tan, at tips of branches, female cones are small, green and leathery. Cone scales are nearly rounded.
Harvest and Preparation: No parts of Tsuga canadensis are poisonous. Harvest needles anytime but preferably young ones in spring. For tea, boil needles in a covered pot and steep for 10 minutes. Tea is high in vitamin C. Inner bark is best in winter and early spring. To avoid damaging tree, use inner bark only in an emergency. It may be eaten raw or boiled, or dried and ground to mix with flour.
Medicinal Uses: Twigs with many needles used in tea to treat kidney ailments. Steam from tea used to treat rheumatism, colds, and coughs. Bark used in tea to treat colds, fevers, diarrhea, coughs, and scurvy. Also has astringent properties. Bark poultice used for treating bleeding wounds.
Poisonous Look-Alikes: American Yew is a commonly cultivated shrub that has longer needles and bright red, fleshy pulp surrounding seeds.
Credit For Content:
Missouri Botanical Garden
Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Edible Wild Plants - A North American Guide To Over 200 Natural Foods
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center