Quick Key to Identifying Hemlock
Hemlock Description (Forest Trees of Maine)
More Needle Characteristics
Needles have 2 white "racing stripes" on the underside. Fir needles have similar stripes.
Narrow, rounded ridges, covered in thick scales
Cinnamon red to gray in color
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)