Mountain Hemlock, Tsuga Mertensiana, is a tree of the high alpine zone. Its native range extends from Alaska south through British Columbia all the way to the Washington and Oregon coast. It is a tree shaped by the deep seasonal shift of the burning summer sun to heavy winter snowpack and back again. As a result, its growing season is very short, and at treeline, it appears stunted and contorted like a natural bonsai tree with rugged scaly bark and smooth rounded foliage pads. At lower elevations it still retains its rugged charm, yet grows up to 80ft.
And a common sight, one which can be used to identify the tree amidst other species, are its beautiful purple-blue seed cones hanging in dense clusters in the spring sun.
As a candidate for a Bonsai tree it is perhaps one of the best in the world, for on mature specimens, Its rugged old bark and delicate dark green fernlike foliage are the perfect combination of masculine and feminine beauty. It also adapts very well to life in a pot, which basically mimics life in the thin alpine soil.
Many trees found growing high in the mountains will have trunks as small as 4inches in diameter, yet can be as old as 350 years. Some collected specimens have been tested at close to and in one case over 800 years old. In all it is an outstanding tree with many attractive qualities, allowing it to stand out in a sharp, eye catching manner amongst other plant and tree varieties.