In the high alpine meadows and upon the bleak, windswept crests we find the Mountain Hemlock whose irregular crown, olive green foliage and pendant cones easily distinguish it from the symetrical, spire-like Alpine Fir with which it is most generally associated. Here where the fierce winter gales and deep snows have ample opportunity to exert all their force we find this tree bent, gnarled and twisted by these unfriendly elements. (See cover) The short growing season, too, is unfavorable to the best development of this tree and often very small trees are possessed of great age--trees less than a foot in diameter being over two hundred years old in many cases.
Botanically the Mountain Hemlock is a close relative of the Western Hemlock of the lower forest. Actually, however, to the casual observer these two trees bear little resemblance to one another and only those schooled in tree botany can recognize this fact. The Mountain Hemlock has olive green, needle-like foliage that instead of being flat and arranged comb-like on the branchlets is round and blunt pointed and clothes the entire branch upon which it is found in clusters of needles that seem to grow in every direction. The cones of this tree are very beautiful--particularly before maturity when they have a decided purple hue which is sharply contrasted to the foliage. Sometimes they occur in such great abundance that the branches bend down because of their weight. Because of its rugged, pioneering habits, its constant battle with the elements, and its picturesque form, this tree, in the opinion of many, possesses more character than any other in the Park.
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