Tsuga canadensis (L.) Carr.
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Basis for Listing
Tsuga canadensis is one of Minnesota's rarest and most imperiled trees. It was rare even before the era of unrestrained logging and slash fires changed the composition of Minnesota's forests, and it has fared poorly since. The largest reported stand of T. canadensis in Minnesota was situated on 113 ha (280 ac.) in St. Louis County near the town of Paupore. At one time, this stand had nearly 5,000 T. canadensis trees of all sizes (Lawson 1942). In 1912, about 8,000 railroad ties were cut from this stand, and in an effort to protect the remaining trees a state park was proposed for the site. Tragically, the Moose Lake-Cloquet fire of 1918 intervened, destroying all but a few individual trees; eventually they all died. Currently, the number of known sites containing T. canadensis is around 10, with a total of perhaps 50 mature trees. The largest population consists of just 12 mature trees. Other sites may have only a single tree, rarely more than four or five, with little if any reproduction. Tsuga canadensis currently receives no legal protection in Minnesota, having only been listed as special concern in 1984,and its future is not bright. Elevating its status to endangered is currently being considered.
Tsuga canadensis is a large forest tree, reaching a maximum height of about 30 m (100 ft.) and a diameter at breast height (dbh) of about 60 cm (2.0 ft.). It has horizontal or somewhat drooping branches and soft evergreen leaves. The shape of the tree is roughly conical, similar to other conifers, but the leader often has a peculiar leaning or drooping aspect and it may look curiously bare. The bark is gray or brownish, scaly when young but developing ridges and furrows with age. The leaves are linear or tapered and persist for about 3 years (evergreen). They are 7-13 mm (0.3-0.5 in.) long, 1.5-2 mm (0.06-0.08 in.) wide, and borne on a persistent peglike base like leaves of spruces. The seed cones are 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in.) long, pendent, ellipsoid before opening, and ovoid after opening (Smith 2008).
In Minnesota, T. canadensis is usually scattered in mixed hardwood-conifer forests with Betula alleghaniensis (yellow birch), Thuja occidentalis (northern white cedar), Pinus strobus (white pine), or Picea glauca (white spruce), typically on moist, well-drained soils in cool, sheltered valleys and ravines.
Biology / Life History
Tsuga canadensis is a long-lived forest tree characteristic of late-successional plant communities. It is wind-pollinated and the seeds are dispersed by wind and gravity. It is very tolerant of shade but vulnerable to drought, windthrow, and especially white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) predation (Mladendoff 1993). The continental climate of Minnesota, especially the cold, dry autumns, could be a limiting factor (Calcote 1986).
Conservation / Management
Tsuga canadensis has always been relatively rare in Minnesota, which represents the northwestern edge of its range, but has suffered a population decline during the last century and a half. Logging, poor reproduction and recruitment, and significant deer browse have all contributed to the decline. The major conservation need for T. canadensis is to protect all surviving stands from logging and other land clearing operations. Tsuga canadensis is so rare in Minnesota that it has no significant value to the timber industry; any damage to individual trees would likely happen incidental to the cutting of more valuable trees. Therefore, if T. canadensis were found in a timber stand that was planned for harvest, it would be relatively easy to exclude it from the timber sale. The boundaries of any T. canadensis populations should be determined early in the process and a buffer of at least one tree length should be established around the perimeter. No timber harvesting or forest management should be conducted within this designated zone.
Conservation Efforts in Minnesota
Several of the known T. canadensis sites are in forests occurring within public parks, and they are given tacit protection from logging. The largest known population occurs in a state Scientific and Natural Area, where it receives the highest level of protection available on state-owned land.
Anderson, R. C. and O. L. Loucks. 1979. White-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) influence on structure and composition of Tsuga canadensis forests. Journal of Applied Ecology 16: 855-61.
Calcote, R. R. 1986. Hemlock in Minnesota: 1200 years as a rare species. M.S. Thesis, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Lawson, E. L. 1942. What happened to the hemlock? Minnesota Conservation Volunteer. January: 64-66.
Mladendoff, D. J. 1993. Eastern hemlock regeneration and deer browsing in the northern Great Lakes region: A reexamination and model simulation. Conservation Biology 7:889-900.
Rogers, R. S. 1978. Forests dominated by hemlock (Tsuga canadensis): Distribution as related to site and postsettlement history. Canadian Journal of Botany 56:843-854.
Rooney, T. P., and D. M. Waller. 1998. Local and regional variation in hemlock seedling establishment in forests of the upper Great Lakes region, USA. Forest Ecology and Management 111:211-224.
Smith, W. R. 2008. Trees and shrubs of Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. 703 pp.
Taylor, R. J. 1993. Tsuga. Pages 362-365 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, editors. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.
Tyrrell, L. E., and T. R. Crow. 1994. Structural characteristics of old-growth hemlock-hardwood forests in relation to age. Ecology 75:370-386.
Winchell, N. H. 1899. The geology of Minnesota / The geological and natural history survey of Minnesota. Volume 4. Johnson, Smith & Harrison, Minneapolis, Minnesota.