Forestry Friday … Getting High With Mountain Hemlock

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber

Take the high road to find mountain hemlock.

If you want to find mountain hemlock you have to get high, or should I say, go high.  The mountain hemlock is a high elevation tree of the Sierra and Cascades mountains.  You can find mountain hemlock growing at elevations from 6,000 feet to 11,000 feet in the Sierras of California.

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber

Red fir, lodgepole pine and western white pine are common neighbors of mountain hemlock.

Mountain hemlock grows in a wide band along the Pacific coast.  Its range extends from the Sierra mountains of California in the South to Southern Alaska in the North.  In Alaska it grows in extensive stands down to sea level.   This is common with most trees that have a wide north to south range.  The farther north you go, the lower elevation you grow.

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber, cones

The hemlock cones look a lot like spruce cones.

It is not commonly harvested in California, because it is not common in California’s managed timberlands.   As a result, I don’t run into it very often in my job.

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber

A delicate looking tree living in a harsh place.

Tsuga mertensiana is the scientific name, but let’s really look at this wonderful tree.  Hemlocks have a different personality from the other western conifers and that’s what I enjoy about them.  They have a bit of a fairytale quality.

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber

The blue green foliage has a soft appearance and feel.

From its delicate needles to the droopy tips the mountain hemlock has a poetic gestalt, or gesture as artists are so fond of saying.

mountain hemlock, tsuga mertensiana, hemlock, forestry, timber

The tree tops almost have a joyous look about them.

Douglas squirrel

The ubiquitous Douglas squirrel is a common resident up here.

Blitz is back on duty keeping the squirrels in line.  What would I do without her.

Blitz, golden retriever

Blitz giving her best regal pose.  Well done girl!

golden retriever

“Whoa squirrel, gotta go!”

nature photography

After a long day of practicing forestry and chasing squirrels it’s time to head for the barn.

87 thoughts on “Forestry Friday … Getting High With Mountain Hemlock

      • Just out of interest, are some of the high mountain areas left unlogged for conservation reasons, or all they are sustainably managed? Don’t worry if you don’t have time to answer in any detail 🙂


        • Mike, I’m glad you asked. It’s part of the mission of my blog to share my experiences in the forestry profession. In California and the West in general most of the highest elevation lands are in Parks and Wilderness areas that will never be logged. The managed forest are either private land or public land. The Forest Practice Act is the set of State laws that govern private lands. The public lands are regulated by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Under these rules all timber harvesting is strictly regulated on public and private land. Sustainable harvesting is part of the requirements under the law. Even before harvest takes place an Evironmental Assessment or Timber Harvesting Plan has to be approved. I often hear in the media the perception of unregulated logging, but the truth is that it is strictly regulated. It is also understood that good sustainable forestry practices are also good business for the long tern sustainability of a company. It is a long answer to address all the practices that are used. That will be good fodder for future posts, so stay tuned. I really appreciate your question, and Happy New Year.


          • See what you did with this blog? We have a ton of questions for you! I am glad you are happy to explain stuff to those of us who want to learn more.


          • I’m honored that you guys are willing to ask the questions. I love and believe in what I do and I am so happy to answer what I can. Besides, I keep getting homework from you all. To many things to post about and not enough time. I might have to start a page just for the great questions I get.


          • That’s all very good and very interesting to know Tim. I think the idea of a truly sustainable forestry system is fascinating and, I would imagine, it must have developed overtime so that sustainability also includes wildlife conservation based on actual monitoring and feedback, so that the way wildlife populations respond to regulated logging can be built into the harvesting strategies? I’d love to know more and look forward to reading your future posts with interest. Thanks for answering in such depth Tim I really appreciate it.


          • Resource protection is built into the logging rules and focuses on wildlife, water, archaeological sites, fire prevention, cumulative impact, etc. It is quite in depth. The wildlife responses are interesting because some species thrive when there is logging and other don’t. The focus is on the ones that don’t. Surveys are done to see if they are present and then protection measures are put in place. Also, the levels of habitat are surveyed to be certain the logging doesn’t create an imbalance in habitat structure in any given area. It is very site specific and can get a bit complicated.


          • I know what you mean about it being site specific and complicated Tim, I do that for a living albeit in much more modified landscapes. As a conservation management planner I’m fascinated by the response of wildlife to management, and even more so in the methods we use for finding that out. I’m looking forward to learning more about how it’s done in your neck of the woods. I’m off to an ancient upland oak woodland site next week to do a management plan for that, drawing on all of the knowledge and expertise of the guys on the ground up there.


          • It’s owned by the National Trust, so it’s private land but their remit is to manage it for conservation and for access for all people to enjoy the habitats and wildlife. The atlantic oak woodland is usually a mosaic of dense woodland and more open heath habitats and are usually fantastic sites for western atlantic lichens and bryophytes as well as birds, mammals and invertebrates, so I’m looking forward to the trip a lot. Of course these landscapes have been exploited by man for thousands of years and are radically different from more natural landscapes found elsewhere, but they have their own inherent beauty. I’ll definitely be posting photos in the near future. Good to talk to you Tim 🙂


          • That sound, like an awesome project. I believe that habitats like this were in a natural state with man for thousands of years. If you think of man as part of the ecosystem, and I do, then you have to look at how this shaped the environment. Nature is quick to exploit changes even those created by man. If you change the environment to improve habitat, those changes will favor certain species while hindering others. It’s never simple is it?


          • That’s dead right Tim and because these habitats and landscapes have been shaped for thousands of years by people basically toiling to survive and create an existence for themselves from the land, in the best places for nature, the wildlife has adapted to or been favoured by these changes. Of course intensive land use in most places in the UK has resulted in large scale habitat loss and associated decline in most species populations. Our conservation mantra in Wales is “we don’t expect to see everything (all wildlife) everywhere, but there should be somewhere for everything”. As you say it’s never simple but it sure is interesting 🙂


          • You are quite right Mike. Folks here worry about logging because it takes place in the wild places. The true loss of wildlife is from habitat loss. The conversion of land to other uses like subdivisions and developments is the biggest reason for this. In a working forest, we maintain a forested environment. It may be a mature forest or a brand new forest, but is still a forest.


          • That sounds like a very sensible policy, one day I’d love to return to see those magnificent forests, we’re hoping to do a trip in June from Arizona/Utah to California and the forests at at the top of my visit list


  1. Tim, I really enjoyed this post since you had a great question from a fellow and you answered it pretty well in such a short space. I love trees and the forest even thought I don’t live near any “real forests.” but there are “wooded” areas around that I love. Again the info about how and where the hemlock grows was very informative.

    And the photos are great and the pic of Blitz is excellent as usual. 🙂


  2. Haha ha. When I was doing my naturalist’s training with the MROSD I said that the hemlock looked like it was dancing and inviting me to dance with it. Well, the looks I got! And finally one member of the group said something like, “That’s a hippie artist type, right there! Do you draw?” Ha ha ha. Love your doggie.


  3. Pingback: Forestry Friday … Getting High With Mountain Hemlock | Ta hendene til din kjære – se på dem og hold dem hardt Disse hendene skal du følge, leie og lede. Du skal få føle på varmen fra dem og kjenne en inderlig glede. De skal stryke deg og de

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