Are you familiar with the Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)? I hope so, because that means the tireless work of a whole lot of North Georgia volunteers is paying off in increased awareness of the tree’s beauty and value—and of the plight that is threatening its survival.
If you’ve hiked the slopes, ridges and ravines of the North Georgia Mountains or strolled along the banks of our cool mountain streams, you’ve seen the hemlocks. Their graceful, sweeping cascades of needled branches provide a thick canopy of dense shade and critical habitat for many Appalachian species. They’re slow-growing, evergreen conifers that, when healthy in the wild, can reach hundreds of feet in height and live hundreds of years.
Most won’t be so lucky, due to the aggressive infestation of an invasive species known as the hemlock wooly adelgid (HWA). The population of these beautiful trees is being decimated and the need to control the damage is urgent.
There is encouraging progress in the fight against the devastating WHA, including development of a systemic insecticide treatment for individual infested trees and releases of predator beetles, which are being imported and bred in area university laboratories, in forests.
The progress is thanks, in no small part, to local citizens and nonprofit organizations that have drawn attention to the problem and raised money to help fund the labs that are working on solutions.
So what does the HWA infestation mean to you if you have hemlocks on your property now or might like to incorporate them into your landscape?
First, if you have—or think you may have—a hemlock on your property, do a little investigating to determine whether it is hosting the adelgids. The Hemlock Restoration Initiative website can help you figure out whether you have an infested tree.
Save Georgia’s Hemlocks advocates, educates, facilitates, fundraises and provides all the resources and contacts people need to be part of the solution by taking care of our own hemlocks at home and getting involved in coordinated efforts to battle the HWA in neighborhoods and public parks and lands. The website is loaded with great information.
Hemlocks can be magnificent in home landscapes, and cultivated hemlocks aren’t as susceptible to infestations as wild specimens, so they’re as desirable for use in landscape design as ever. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to have the right growing conditions, planting a hemlock on your property as a specimen tree or a privacy screen can be a wonderful way to honor this fine tree.
What else can you do? Spend a day or the weekend at HemlockFest! It’s an annual, 3-day, family-friendly, dog-friendly music, arts-and-crafts and nature festival in Dahlonega, with proceeds benefitting efforts to protect hemlocks. The Lumpkin Coalition, through the festival and other activities, has donated or leveraged more than $100,000 to the hemlock cause.
If you’d like to find out whether the hemlock would work well in your landscape design, let’s talk!