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Pennsylvania state tree, Hemlock, (Pinaceae Tsuga canadensis,) was enacted by the General Assembly on June 23, 1931.
The Hemlock, (Pinaceae Tsuga canadensis,) was a sturdy ally to the state's first settlers. Many a pioneer family felt better protected from the elements and their enemies inside log cabins made from the patriarch of Pennsylvania's forests.
The eastern hemlock (also called Canada hemlock or hemlock spruce) was pronounced the most picturesque and beautiful of the world's evergreens by A. J. Downing, the father of landscape gardening in America.
Tsuga canadensis, also known as eastern hemlock or Canadian hemlock, and in the French-speaking regions of Canada as Pruche du Canada, is a coniferous tree native to eastern North America. It is the state tree of Pennsylvania. The eastern hemlock grows well in shade and is very long lived, with the oldest recorded specimen, found in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, being at least 554 years old.
Eastern hemlock thrives in cool, moist sites. It occupies steep north or east facing slopes in southern counties. Farther north, it forms nearly pure stands in ravines, stream valleys and wooded swamps. Tsuga canadensis grows with white pine.
American beech, maples, oaks and birches in a variety of forest types. Rhododendron, witch-hazel and viburnums often form the shrub layer beneath the hemlock's branches. Canada mayflower, partridgeberry, clubmoss and ferns populate the forest floor nearby. Eastern hemlock is a large, long-lived conifer. Trees more than 400 years old, reaching heights of 140 feet, greeted the settlers of colonial Pennsylvania. The current state champion hemlock stands in Cook Forest State Park. It rises 125 feet with a diameter of 5 feet 1 inch and a spread of 70 feet.
Over the centuries hemlock has been a major contributor to the state's economy. At the peak of production in the 1890s Pennsylvania's forests yielded more than a billion board feet of hemlock lumber each year for beams, weather boarding, shingles and other rough construction. Massive quantities of hemlock bark provided tannic acid to process hides for harness, saddles, belts and shoes. Known for its rot resistance, hemlock is often used today for railroad ties and barn siding.
Hemlock trees provide much more than wood. Their dense evergreen branches provide shelter for Blackburnian warblers, blue-headed vireo, Acadian flycatcher and other forest songbirds. Their deep shade keeps streams cool, providing the cold-water aquatic habitat favored by native brook trout. Red squirrels, blackcapped chickadees, crossbills and pine siskins consume large quantities of hemlock seed.
Eastern hemlock also called Canada hemlock or hemlock spruce, is a slow-growing long-lived tree which unlike many trees grows well in shade. Eastern hemlock is generally confined to areas with cool and humid climates
It may take 250 to 300 years to reach maturity and may live for 800 years or more. A tree measuring 76 in in d.b.h. and 175 ft. tall is among the largest recorded. Hemlock bark was once the source of tannin for the leather industry; now the wood is important to the pulp and paper industry. Many species of wildlife benefit from the excellent habitat that a dense stand of hemlock provides. This tree also ranks high for ornamental planting.
The law designating the hemlock tree as the official Pennsylvania state tree is found in the Pennsylvania Statutes, Title 71, Chapter 6, Section 1004.
Title 71 P.S. State Government
I. The Administrative Codes and Related Provisions
Chapter 6. Provisions Similar or Closely Related to Provisions of the Administrative Code
Secretary and Department of Internal Affairs
§ 1004. State tree; hemlock
The hemlock tree (Tsuga Canadensis Linnaeus) be adopted as the State tree of Pennsylvania.
1931, June 22, P.L. 661, § 1.
HISTORICAL AND STATUTORY NOTES
1990 Main Volume
This act contained the following preamble:
"Whereas, The hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis Linnaeus) is still today, as it was of old, the tree most typical of the forests of Pennsylvania; and
"Whereas, The hemlock yielded to our pioneers the wood from which they wrought their cabin homes; and
"Whereas, The hemlock gave its bark to found a mighty industry; and
"Whereas, The hemlock everywhere lends kindly shelter and sure haven to the wild things of forests; and
"Whereas, The lighted hemlock at Christmas time dazzles the bright eyes of the child with an unguessed hope, and bears to the aged, in its leaves of evergreen, a sign and symbol of faith in immortality."
71 P.S. & 1004, PA ST 71 P.S. & 1004
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Hemlock Tree
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Coniferophyta - Conifers
Family: Pinaceae - Pine family
Genus: Tsuga Carrière - hemlock
Species: Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carrière - eastern hemlock