Village Nature Series: Hope for Hemlocks

The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau is one of the few remaining areas with intact old growth hemlock forest.

The Southern Appalachians are home to two species of hemlocks, the eastern or Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and the Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana).

The Carolina hemlock is extremely rare, found only in the Southern Appalachians, primarily in Western NC. The eastern hemlock is found up and down the east coast; they are giants in the forest, nicknamed the “redwood of the east” and they can live for over 500 years.

Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust has been working to be at the forefront of hemlock preservation efforts in hopes of keeping hemlocks a part of our landscape. Thanks to some generous funders, HCLT has successfully protected several living hemlock stands, including the current world record eastern hemlock known as “The Cheoah,” (also pictured at the top of the article) and some of the last old growth hemlocks left.

Each of these trees provides something important to our landscape. The smaller Carolina hemlock is a rare species and important for its contribution to global biodiversity while the eastern hemlock, which can reach over 170 feet, provides shade and cooler temps and ideal habitat for life on land and in neighboring waterways.

Many animal species rely on the hemlocks for survival, including some that occur nowhere else on the planet. Indeed, hemlocks are an important part of our ecosystem.

Unfortunately, hemlocks have fallen prey to the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), a tiny invasive insect killing millions of hemlock trees and threatening water quality, wildlife habitat, and forest health in our region.

These white, “puff balls” attach to hemlock trees at the base of the needles and feed on the starch reserves in the branches. This interferes with the trees ability take up water and nutrients so that the tree slowly dies from the bottom up. HWA was first reported in NC in 1995 and has already taken a harsh toll on our local hemlocks.

On Tuesday, May 25 at 5 p.m. the Hemlock Restoration Initiative (HRI) will present virtually via Zoom “Hope for Hemlocks” as part of the 2021 Village Nature Series program. The presentation will include information about what everyday folks can do to get involved in hemlock conservation.  

The Village Nature Series is co-hosted by Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust and The Village Green and is free to attend, everyone is welcome! To receive your Zoom link for this event, please email

To learn about the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust and their mission to save valuable natural resources for all generations visit and to learn about The Village Green and their 13.2-acre sanctuary in the heart of Cashiers visit

Article and photos courtesy of the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust

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