Mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, near Leland Lakes in Desolation Wilderness, California


Tsuga mertensiana


Mountain hemlock near Leland Lakes in Desolation Wilderness

MOUNTAIN HEMLOCK is a beautiful tree which frequently grows on granite to above 11,000 feet in the Sierra and down to sea level in Alaska. It also grows in the Rockies in Idaho and Montana. Mountain hemlock prefers north-facing, moist, cool conditions, and can be found with western white pine, lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, or red fir, and sometimes forms in clusters produced by heavy snowpack. Mountain hemlock can grow to 150 feet and 5 feet diameter, and can live for 800 years.

The top and branch tips nod gracefully, the seed cones are about 2 to 3 inches long. Cones are clustered at top of tree. Both new cones and previous year’s opened cones may be on tree at

the same time. Bark is gray, brown, purplish, and deeply furrowed. Cone scales bend back toward base of cone after opening.

Map shows range of mountain hemlock in California, in the Sierra and Klamath mountains, but range extends abundantly to far north. From The Distribution of Forest Trees in California, Griffin and Critchfield

Needles are 1 inch or less, and spirally arranged; they 

bristle in all directions from the shoot, not in a flat plane, hence the foliage has a lacy appearance.

Mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, Yosemite National Park

What appears at first glance to be a massive hemlock in Yosemite National Park is actually comprised of multiple hemlocks clustered together.

Mountain hemlock, Tsuga mertensiana, on granite in Northern Yosemite/Hoover Wilderness

Loving granite in northern Yosemite/Hoover Wilderness