Western Hemlock: BC’s Timber Titan

Western hemlock is the most plentiful tree in BC. It can be found on Vancouver Island, along the Coast, and the Interior west of the Rocky Mountains. It’s usually mixed with Douglas-fir, amablis fir, Sitka spruce, and western red cedar. Hem-fir is western hemlock mixed with amablis fir and is highly valued in the construction and pulp and paper industries.

Western hemlock grows to an average height of 50 to 70 meters in a distinct cone shape with a drooping top and densely packed branches with rich green needles. When the tree is young, seed cones start off as a vibrant green then change to brown as the tree matures.

In Coast Salish culture, every part of the tree has a purpose. Western hemlock serves multiple purposes, including medicinal uses derived from the tree’s bark and needles. Its wood is utilized for making tools, while larger pieces of bark serve as insulation and roofing material.

Photo Source: reSAWN TIMBER co.

Due to its strength and workability, western hemlock’s wood is used in framing, roofing, decking, and as structural lumber. Its wood is also a preferred choice for mouldings and interior woodworking. It’s widely used in doors, floors, windows, joints, ceilings, veneered interior panelling, furniture, and is also used for pulp and newsprint.

Photo Source: Canada Wood

As the dominant tree species in BC, western hemlock plays a vital role in the province’s ecosystems and carries significant cultural and economic value through its timber and various applications.