Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

There is a widespread belief that all hemlock trees are poisonous. We can confidently debunk that rumour. Although the philosopher Socrates drank a cup of hemlock to take his own life, Canadian hemlocks are not toxic in any way. In fact, you can make a cup of tea with the needles if you need a little extra vitamin C.

Canadian hemlock trees are also called eastern hemlocks. As a member of the pine family, it prefers to grow on slopes along ridges and near rivers. Here are some of the important statistics on this evergreen species:

  • Height: Canadian hemlocks can grow 61 centimetres every year. At full height, they can reach 21 meters high.
  • Climate: These trees like colder climates, such as that found in Eastern Ontario.
  • Soil: Sandy soil or well-drained loam. Acidic rather than alkaline.
  • Shade tolerance: Prefer partial shade

You can encourage your landscape designer or end customers to choose Canadian hemlocks if they want to set up privacy screens around their property or homes.

Common Uses for Canadian Hemlocks

This species of evergreen produces dense lumber. In fact, you could get a good workout lifting blocks of Canadian hemlock that weigh 20 pounds per cubic foot!

Here are some of the more common uses for its lumber:

  • Sturdy crates
  • Lumber for construction projects
  • Railroad ties
  • Wood pulp used in paper manufacturing
  • Tanning

The Canadian hemlock tree has a hidden talent. Due to its dense composition, the lumber from these trees holds railroad spikes well. Canadian hemlocks were very much in vogue in the heyday of the railroad industry.

Traditionally, tanners used Canadian hemlock bark as the primary ingredient when tanning hides. Hemlock tannins gave the leather a deep reddish-brown colour. This was distinct from other tanning processes that primarily used oak tannins, resulting in a much lighter, yellow leather. Hides spent six months curing in bark-based tanning solutions.

Varieties of Canadian Hemlock

The following variations of Canadian hemlock were cultivated for use in landscape design:

  • Gentsch White: This dwarf shrub has white or cream foliage and a round shape and reaches less than 2 metres in height.
  • Aurea Compacta: This cultivar reaches less than 2 metres in height and has a short spread.
  • ‘Sargentii’ or ‘Pendula’: These large shrub forms have an arching or weeping habit and grow 3.7 metres.

Dutchmaster Nurseries offers Canadian Hemlocks and other evergreens wholesale to landscapers, contractors, and other businesses. We have served businesses in Ontario for over 50 years. Contact us with any questions you may have on evergreens or other trees and shrubs in our inventory.


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