Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Carolina Hemlock - Tsuga caroliniana   Engelmann
Members of Pinaceae:
Members of Tsuga with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 3 » Order Pinales » Family Pinaceae
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DistributionFound in all Mountain counties, and sparingly in the western Piedmont, where limited to monadnocks and ridges, east to Stokes County and the South Mountains (Burke and Cleveland counties). Specimens from Mecklenburg and Orange counties are considered to be non-natural occurrences.

This is a Southern Appalachian endemic, ranging from western VA south to extreme northeastern GA. The majority of its range is in NC and southwestern VA.
AbundanceUncommon, and somewhat local, seldom common in any county. Rare to very local in the western Piedmont. This is a globally very rare species (G2G3 Global Rank) and is an NC Watch List species owing to some loss from the hemlock woolly adelgid. The trees are not as readily impacted by the adelgid as are Eastern Hemlock (T. canadensis) trees, but this is little comfort, considering its small range and relative rarity. Even so, there has been some loss of trees to the adelgid in much of the NC range, and in the past year (2018) the NCNHP has changed its state rank from S3 to a more precarious S2.
HabitatUnlike the Eastern Hemlock, which favors cool and moist sites, this species occurs on dry, rocky slopes, bluffs, and other exposed sites that are often difficult for biologists to reach for close-up inspection. The two species do grow together in some places, such as at Linville Falls, with the Carolina normally on the steeper and drier sites.
See also Habitat Account for Hemlock Forests
PhenologyPollen is released in March and April, and the cones mature in August and September.
IdentificationThis species is surprisingly not well known to many people, as it is relatively scarce and it grows in many places well removed from trails and easy hiking. It is a medium to rarely a large tree, reaching mainly to about 60 feet tall. The evergreen needles are about 2/3-3/4-inch long, slightly longer than on Eastern Hemlock. They are flat and rounded at the tip, like that species, but needles are arranged somewhat randomly along a stem and are not in flat sprays, in a single plane, like those are in Eastern Hemlock. Also, Carolina Hemlock has somewhat larger cones, averaging over 1 inch long. At a distance, the two species are difficult to separate, such as through binoculars growing on a bluff or exposed slope. Normally, you will need to see the trees within a few feet to be sure of identification.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS2
Global RankG2G3
State StatusW5
US Status
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