The Girl Who Loves White Pines and Hemlocks

A year ago, if you asked me to identify white pine and hemlock trees, I’d be all, huh?

So much has changed since then, now that we’re rural NY property owners. I’ve grown deeply in love with our trees, and especially the two dominant evergreens, Eastern white pine and hemlock. While the hardwoods — oaks, maples, beeches, birches — are typically better “lumber” trees and produce spectacular fall foliage, the conifers remind me of growing up in South Texas. Yes, that’s an odd comparison, since the trees of my youth (mesquite, palms and moss-covered Live oak) look nothing like the great NY trees, but the thing they hold in common is having year-round vibrance, no time of year when they suddenly shed their leaves and look vulnerable, naked and near death.

First, the Eastern white pine. This little baby starts out all Charlie Brown Christmas-style.

Baby white pine

But it grows, and grows, and grows and grows. And sometimes turns into multi-trunk mega-trees. We have 4 or 5 mega-trees, and boy, they’re monstrous.

Mature white pine

This is homo sapiens, posing with a mega white pine.

Joy and mega-tree.

Next, the Eastern hemlock. Not as majestic, but perhaps more prolific, at least in our neck of the woods. We’ve got a great many of them sprouting around the place.  Their short needles make them nice light dapplers.

Baby hemlock

Here’s a bunch of hemmies, all growed up, hanging out with birch and rhodedendrons. (Both the white pine and the hemlocks have lots of broken branches on their trunks that they don’t really ever get rid of. That’s perhaps one way to ID them fast in summer.) In this photo, the hemlocks are in the back. And, because they love to grow on cliffs near water, it’s often their trunks you’ll see scattered across a river, after they’ve gone to tree heaven.

More homo sapiens, and hemlocks fallen over the river.

Our living room view is a mix of sumac, hemmies and white pines. The short bright green stuff in the front is sumac. The next closest thing is hemlock, which is growing along a river down below.  The tallest of the trees, forming the top line of the trees — are white pine.

Up close, they’re easier to tell apart.

White pine needles in the spring.

Versus hemlock needles:

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