Pierce Park Eastern Hemlocks

The Eastern Hemlock is the state tree of Pennsylvania. But if you look around, you will see them everywhere in Massachusetts too. Many of these specimens tower over other trees, bringing to the landscape a massive background of evergreens. The Eastern Native Tree Society has found Hemlocks up to 173 feet tall along the east coast of the United States. Put two of these trees on top of each other, and they surpass the Statue of Liberty, which is 305’ tall.

Hemlocks sometimes grow to be enormous because they can live 800 years. Unfortunately, a pesky aphid-like insect called wooly adelgid is plaguing and killing most Hemlocks in America. This awful bug came from Japan uninvited in the 1950’s and has been feasting on our Hemlocks ever since. Spraying entire forests is economically impossible and not very effective, according to scientists. So their best bet for saving Hemlock forests is by releasing in great numbers a predatory beetle whose favorite meal is the wooly adelgid.

Black bears often use hollow hemlocks as shelter. This tree also feeds many wild animals. Deer, rabbits and squirrels eat hemlock bark. Porcupines eat hemlock twigs, and birds eat their needles and seeds. Hemlock needles contain vitamin C and can be drunk as a tea, as the Iroquois Indians did. Oil extracted from the needles is used in the perfume industry. Crushed needles smell like poison hemlock (a flowering plant Greek philosopher Socrates drank to kill himself), but the Hemlock trees are not toxic.