Hemlocks Past

Tsuga canadensisThe devastation caused by the aphid-like Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae) was on display on our visit to Black Rock Forest. It was grim: skeletal bones of dead trees towered above us, waiting to fall. The Adelgids, which are fairly benign in their native Japan, where their host trees evolved along with them, kill our Eastern Hemlocks (Tsuga canadensis) after just a few years of infestation. There wasn’t a healthy mature Hemlock to be seen; some still had a bit of green at the top, but most were dead.Tsuga canadensisAnd rotting: this was the heart of one of the fallen old giants. At least there’s the cycling of nutrients back into the ecosystem from this ruin.Tsuga canadensisThere’s close to a hundred years of growth here. BRF was, like all Hudson Highland woodlands, essentially clear-cut by the 19th century for building material, fuel supply, and mining operations, not to mention farm clearances, and tanning works, which particularly favored the tannins in Hemlock bark.

BRF was Harvard’s forest research station from the late 1920s to 1989, when a consortium of local institutions took over management. I hope they’re working on some Hemlock restoration strategies. There were certainly plenty of Hemlock saplings in evidence.

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