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

Introduction to Vascular Plants


© Virginia Skilton     (Photo ID #5366)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Tsuga heterophylla
Click here to view the full interactive map and legend


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

Species Information

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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

USDA Species Characteristics

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


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)
651 0 2750
Slope Gradient (%)
26 0 410

Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]

273 0 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
4 0 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
# 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)

Habitat and 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.

SourceThe Illustrated Flora of British Columbia