The Hemlocks of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
People that know me personally, know that I'm a tree nut. No, not the kind that gives people allergic reactions, the kind that likes to learn about and visit trees. I got very interested in them earlier in the year. I've always wanted to see the Giant Sequoia of the Sierra Nevada and my wife facilitated that journey this year. They were amazing. You don't see trees with trunks as large as a house here in the eastern US, but seeing the Giant Sequoia got me curious about interesting trees closer to home. A tree that caught my attention was the Eastern Hemlock. The hemlock has been under attack by an invasive species known as the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid for several decades now. If it isn't brought under control, there is a real threat of it becoming extinct. Whenever I see a hemlock, I check it for adelgid activity.
While checkig for pests earlier in the year, my wife and I found some strange looking hemlocks at Kendall Ledges in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The needles on these hemlocks didn't fall in flat sprays on either side of the twig. At first we thought they were just juvenile. After doing some research online, I learned there is a population of Carolina Hemlocks here in Ohio. The origin of this population is still being investigated. Some think it may be a naturally occuring disjunct population. Disjunct populations can occur when something separates a species from it's normal range. They also may have been planted, but that seems unlikely. Carolina hemlock is a rare tree and it is not one used for reforestation. The photo that accompanies this post is one of a Carolina Hemlock reaching out to an Eastern Hemlock. The Carolina Hemlock are the brighter green needles to the right and the Eastern Hemlock are the darker ones to the left. All of the trees at Kendall Ledges appear to be pest free and I hope they remain so.
This is a really unusual mix of hemlock for this part of the country. They aren't the tallest trees you will ever see, but they have a special character. Groves of hemlock are unique in that they block a huge portion of the sun. It's surprising how dark it is underneath their canopy. I would hate to see this type of forest go extinct. There are quite a few saplings growing near these trees so it does give me hope that they will survive.