Hemlock

First off, in case anyone here is reading from Europe, I’m not talking about the stuff Socrates used to end his days. Why the shared name? Supposedly, when the needles of Eastern/Canadian hemlock, or Tsuga canadensis,  are crushed, they produce a smell similar to that of poison hemlock. However, Eastern hemlock is a slow-growing, long-lived tree that, unlike many conifers, actually needs the shade of taller hardwood trees to grow well. It is very sensitive to sun, wind and moisture variation, all of which can cause die-back during the winter.

name? Supposedly, when the needles of Eastern/Canadian hemlock, or Tsuga canadensis,  are crushed, they produce a smell similar to that of poison hemlock. However, Eastern hemlock is a slow-growing, long-lived tree that, unlike many conifers, actually needs the shade of taller hardwood trees to grow well. It is very sensitive to sun, wind and moisture variation, all of which can cause die-back during the winter.

Sadly, Eastern hemlock faces a moderate level of threat from the wooly adelgid, which was introduced from East Asia (those Tsuga are resistant to it, happily). The major problem with the death of a single hemlock is its shallow and wide-spread root system: if a large tree falls, it is very likely to take many younger trees with it as well.

Because of its longevity and love of damp places, Hemlock is what I replace Yew with in my Northeast ogham set. Interestingly enough, none of the magical authors whose books I own address Tsuga, though plenty mention poison hemlock. Astrologically, because of its slow development, I associate it with Saturn, and with the element of Earth, though she embodies Spirit as well to my mind, particularly since male and female cones are formed on the same tree. I’ve always found Hemlock to be very open to humans, both curious and sassy. She’s a wonderful tree under which to meditate, and for those working the Ovate grade of OBOD,  she can be a wonderful candidate to watch over both the Rite of the Tree and the Rite of the Ancestors.