E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Tsuga heterophylla (Raf.) Sarg.
western hemlock
Pinaceae (Pine family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #5366)

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Distribution of Tsuga heterophylla
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This is a tall evergreen coniferous tree species that is common in south-eastern and western BC.

Species Information

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Tree to 50 (60) m tall; narrow crown, with noticeably drooping leader (growing tip); young twigs covered with mix of short hairs and longer hairs; bark rough and scaly, strongly furrowed and ridged in older trees, dark brown to reddish-brown.
Needles somewhat flattened, rounded at tip, 8-20 (25) mm long and characteristically unequal in length, spread unevenly at right angles to the branches to form feathery, flat sprays; glossy and yellow-green on upper surface, almost entirely white-stomatiferous on the lower.
Seed cones maturing from green to brown, 1.5-2.5 cm long, oblong-egg-shaped; pollen cones yellow, 3-4 mm long.
Hybrids with T. mertensiana have been reported (T. x jeffreyi [Henry] Henry) but are considered rare; some reports may be at upper elevations of its range where T. heterophylla may take on some characteristics of T. mertensiana, e.g., leaves less 2-ranked and stomatal bands on the lower leaf surfaces less distinct.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Blooming Period:
Mid Spring
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present from Summer to Fall
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Moist to dry slopes, river terraces and flats in the lowland and montane zones; common in and W of the Coast-Cascade Mountains in W BC and in SE BC; N to SE AK and S to N CA, N ID and NW MT.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Tsuga heterophylla

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 651 2750
Slope Gradient (%) 0 26 410
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 273 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 4 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: CDF(71), CMA(1), CWH(5619), ESSF(920), ICH(4231), IDF(104), MH(373), MS(75), SBS(128)

Ecological Indicator Information

A very shade-tolerant, submontane to subalpine, Western North American evergreen conifer distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in cool temperate and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence increases with precipitation, and decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Most productive on submontane, fresh, and nutrient-medium soils within summer-wet cool mesothermal climates. Common on nitrogen-poor, water-shedding and water-receiving sites; on nitrogen-rich soils restricted to acid organic materials. Regenerate on acid organic substrates and on decaying coniferous wood

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is cool temperate & cool mesothermal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References