Common Name(s): Western Hemlock

Scientific Name: Tsuga heterophylla

Distribution: Northwest coast of North America

Tree Size: 165-200 ft (50-60 m) tall, 3-5 ft (1-1.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 29 lbs/ft3 (465 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .37, .47

Janka Hardness: 540 lbf (2,400 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 11,300 lbf/in2 (77.9 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,630,000 lbf/in2 (11.24 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 7,200 lbf/in2 (37.3 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 4.2%, Tangential: 7.8%, Volumetric: 12.4%, T/R Ratio: 1.9


Color/Appearance: Heartwood is light reddish brown. Sapwood may be slightly lighter in color but usually isn’t distinguished from the heartwood. Occasionally contains dark streaks caused by bark maggots. The conspicuous growth rings can exhibit interesting grain patterns on flatsawn surfaces.

Grain/Texture: Grain is generally straight, with a coarse, uneven texture.

Endgrain: Resin canals absent; earlywood to latewood transition usually gradual, color contrast fairly high; tracheid diameter medium-large.

Rot Resistance: Rated as non-durable regarding decay resistance, and also susceptible to insect attack.

Workability: Overall working properties are good, but because of the disparity between the soft earlywood and the hard latewood, sanding can create dips and uneven surfaces. Glues, stains, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Western Hemlock has been reported to cause skin and respiratory irritation, as well as runny nose. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Western Hemlock is one of the two primary commercial species of hemlock harvested in North America—with the other being Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Western Hemlock is used as construction lumber and is commonly grouped together with other species of fir and hemlock and sold under the more generic label “HEM-FIR.” Expect prices to be moderate for a domestic softwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices, and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Common Uses: Boxes, pallets, crates, plywood, framing, and other construction purposes.

Comments: Western Hemlock is the largest of the hemlocks, and is one of the most valuable sources of exportable lumber for Canada; the species is also the state tree of Washington. When compared to Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), Western Hemlock generally has narrower growth rings, though both species can have tightly spaced growth rings.

Related Species:

  • Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)
  • Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana)

Related Articles:

  • None available.


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