The eastern hemlock is an evergreen tree native to eastern North America. It’s a long lived tree that reaches 100 feet tall, however, the hemlock woolly adelgid is threatening the population. When we moved into our mountain farmhouse we consulted with a forester. He showed us how to identify an eastern hemlock and recognize a hemlock woolly adelgid infestation.
How to Identify an Eastern Hemlock
The eastern hemlock thrive on rocky ridges with cool and humid conditions. Consequently, the Appalachian Mountains are an ideal habitat for the eastern hemlock. The following characteristics will help identify an eastern hemlock.
- Tiny and flat.
- Rounded at the tip.
- Shiny dark green on top with two silver stripes underneath.
- Individually attached to branch by a woody base.
- Thick ridges.
- Flat plates.
- Gray brown or cinnamon brown in color.
- Tiny pollen cones turn into seed cones.
- Cones only grow at the end of the branchlets.
What is Hemlock Woolly Adelgid?
The hemlock woolly adelgid is an aphid threatening the eastern hemlock. An aphid is a sap feeding insect. It came to the eastern United States from Japan. The egg sacs clinging to the underside of the hemlock branches. These egg sacs resemble small pieces of cotton. An adult hemlock woolly adelgid is a tiny brown oval insect with a four piece stylet that functions as a mouth. This stylet bundle pierces the tree to suck out the sap while inject a toxin during feeding. As a result, the trees loose their needles and new growth is prevented. Subsequently, an eastern hemlock tree will typically die within 4 to 10 years after infestation.
Tennessee Greenbelt Law
In 1976, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted the Agricultural, Forest and Open Space Land Act. It’s also commonly known as the “Greenbelt Law.” The purpose of the Greenbelt Law is to help preserve agricultural, forest and open space land. The land value for the property is reduced to use value instead of market value. For example, assessor determines the use value by using the county schedule and calculating 25% of the total use value as the assessed value to which the current year’s tax rate is applied.
There are three types of land that can qualify for greenbelt classification: agricultural, forestry and open space land.
Agricultural Land: A farm unit engaged in the production or growing of crops, plants, animals, nursery or floral products.
Forest Land: Property of 15 acres or more used in the growing of trees “under a sound program of sustained yield management” or with an amount and quality of tree growth which is managed like a forest.
Open Space Land: Property of three acres or more maintained in an open or natural condition, preservation of which benefits the public.
For more information about Tennessee’s Greenbelt Law visit The State Board of Equalization or contact your county assessor of property.
Harvesting Our Hemlock Trees
Once we closed on the farmhouse we applied for the Greenbelt under the forest land classification. Our property is about 30 acres, approximately 23 acres are forest. After that, we consulted with a forester to help prepare our Greenbelt Plan. He took an inventory of our land and educated us on the management of our forest. In addition, he showed us how to identify an eastern hemlock, which comprises the majority of our forest. During this time we discovered that the hemlock woolly adelgid infested the eastern hemlock in our forest. Consequently, some of the trees have already died off.
Once spring arrives the hemlock woolly adelgid will hatch causing even more destruction to the eastern hemlock population. As a result, we made the decision to harvest all of the eastern hemlock with the guidance of the forester.
All the trees to be harvested must be marked. Once that is complete the logger will begin cutting. In addition, we are harvesting all Virginia pine, red oak and some white oak. It turned out to be a great decision contacting the forester. Above all, the educational processes gave us a newfound appreciation for the forest.