Quick Key to Identifying Hemlock


 

Read each statement in the numbered pair, then determine which best describes the sample in front of you.

1. Leaves needle-like--go to 2  
1. Leaves not needle-like--not hemlock  
 
2. Leaves attached to twigs in clusters--not hemlock (pine or larch)  
2. Leaves attached singly--go to 3  
 
3. Leaves angled in cross section --not hemlock (spruce) Hint: Try rolling the needles between your fingers. Spruce needles (angled) will roll, hemlock and fir needles (flat) will not.
3. Leaves flat--go to 4
 

4. Leaf sides tapered, twigs flexible, leaf attached to small "peg" on the twig, leaf with small stem*--HEMLOCK

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4. Leaf straight-sided, twigs stiff, leaf attached to twig with suction-cup-like attachment--not hemlock (Fir) main content

Hemlock Description (Forest Trees of Maine)

More Needle Characteristics
Needles have 2 white "racing stripes" on the underside. Fir needles have similar stripes.

Bark Characteristics
Narrow, rounded ridges, covered in thick scales
Cinnamon red to gray in color

Crown Silouette
Conical to Egg-Shaped (more or less); fine branches give this tree a lacier appearance than spruce, fir or pine. The topmost branch often points away from the prevailing wind.

*OTHER LOOKALIKES: Douglas fir, a widely planted tree, also has single needles, flat in cross-section, attached on a stem but the twig is smooth (does not have raised bump). Douglas fir needles are arranged in a spiral around the twig (making it appear bushy) while hemlock needles are arranged mostly in a single plane (making the twig appear flatter). Yew, a widely used landscape tree/shrub, has single needles that look very similar to hemlock. However, it lacks the white lines apparent on the undersides of hemlock and fir. (Back to Key)