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What Is the State Tree of Washington?

The state tree of Washington is the Western Hemlock, a majestic evergreen that symbolizes the lush Pacific Northwest. Its towering presence and resilience reflect the state's natural beauty and strength. As you explore the significance of this tree, consider how it shapes the landscape and culture of Washington. What other secrets does the Western Hemlock hold? Join us to uncover more.
Britt Archer
Britt Archer

Mockery from an Oregon newspaper prompted Washington to select its state tree in 1947. The previous year, The Oregonian had chided Oregon’s neighboring state for not having an official tree, and decided the western hemlock would be a good choice as the state tree of Washington. Irritated by Oregon’s presumptuousness, newspapers in Washington bristled at the suggestion and made a selection of their own, the western red cedar. George Adams, a Washington state representative, favored the western hemlock despite the fact the suggestion had come from Oregon, and he persuaded fellow legislators to agree with him and make the western hemlock the state tree of Washington.

The state tree of Washington is the largest variety of hemlock, and it is also known as Tsuga heterophylla. This tree is long-lived, and discoveries have been made of some 1,200-year-old western hemlocks. It has been known to reach almost 256 feet (78 meters), but usually averages 164 feet (about 50 meters) to almost 230 feet (about 70 meters). Along the west coast, its native range extends from California to Alaska, and its habitat extends to Montana in the east.

The state tree of Washington is a type of hemlock.
The state tree of Washington is a type of hemlock.

The western hemlock is a native species in the Pacific Northwest, where it grows quickly. The state tree of Washington can also grow on the east coast of the United States, but in this area its growth is slower. It is a significant source of timber in the northwest. This tree has the advantage over some other hemlock trees in that it can usually withstand an insect pest known as the woolly adelgid. This insect can damage other types of trees in this family, including the Carolina hemlock and the Canadian hemlock.

Coast hemlock, pacific hemlock, lowland hemlock, and west coast hemlock are all alternate names for the state tree of Washington. Native Americans called the Salish used its bark to make a red dye. They used it for cosmetic purposes as well as to dye baskets and tint wool, the wood for combs and eating utensils. Native Americans also used the shoots and leaves to concoct a tea. Today the wood of the western hemlock is used for railroad ties, poles and construction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state tree of Washington?

The state tree of Washington is the Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). It was designated as the state tree in 1947, reflecting its significance to the state's forest industry and natural heritage. The Western Hemlock is known for its longevity and can grow up to 250 feet tall, playing a crucial role in the ecosystem of Washington's temperate rainforests.

Why was the Western Hemlock chosen as Washington's state tree?

The Western Hemlock was chosen as Washington's state tree due to its abundance and economic importance to the state. It is prevalent in Washington's forests and is valued for its wood, which is used in construction and paper production. The tree's adaptability and shade tolerance also make it a key species in the state's coniferous forests.

Where can you find Western Hemlock trees in Washington?

Western Hemlock trees are widespread throughout Washington, particularly in the moist, cool climates of the western part of the state. They thrive in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges and are a common sight in national parks and forests, such as Olympic National Park and Mount Rainier National Park, where they contribute to the lush, green landscapes that Washington is known for.

What are some characteristics of the Western Hemlock?

The Western Hemlock is an evergreen conifer with a conical shape and drooping top. Its needles are short, rounded at the tip, and arranged in a feathery pattern. The bark is brownish-red and deeply furrowed. This tree produces small, hanging cones and can live for hundreds of years, with some specimens reaching ages of over 1200 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

How does the Western Hemlock contribute to Washington's ecosystem?

The Western Hemlock plays a vital role in Washington's ecosystem by providing habitat and food for wildlife. Its dense foliage offers shelter for birds and mammals, while the seeds from its cones serve as a food source. The tree also contributes to soil stability and water regulation within forest ecosystems, helping to maintain the environmental balance necessary for the diverse flora and fauna of Washington.

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    • The state tree of Washington is a type of hemlock.
      By: Jorge Moro
      The state tree of Washington is a type of hemlock.