Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch
Larix alaskensis W. Wight
Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch var. alaskensis (W. Wight) Raup
Larch, Tamarack, American Larch, Hackmatack, Eastern Larch, Black Larch, Red Larch, Tamarack Trees
Tamaracks are native to cooler regions of North America, especially Canada and the northeastern United States. Tamarack is an Algonquin name for “wood used for snowshoes.” They prefer acid soils and cool, moist sites, including swamps and bogs.
Plants: Trees are 33-66' (10-20 m) tall, with trunks up to 24" (60 cm) in diameter. While most cool climate conifers are evergreen, retaining their needles in winter, tamaracks are deciduous, dropping them. Branches are in whorls, reaching straight out or lifting slightly. (Many conifers have downward-angled branches, the classic Christmas tree shape, helpful in shedding snow loads, but since tamaracks are deciduous, this isn’t an issue.) Branches are relatively sparse. They fall away from lower parts of the tree over time. In younger trees, the bark is smooth and gray. Older trees have thick, rough, reddish brown, scaly bark, which flakes away to reveal a reddish-purple layer. Twigs are orange-brown and smooth, but with many short branches.
Leaves: Tight spirals of bumps called spurs surround twigs. Each spur contains a spray of needle-like leaflets ¾-1" (2-3 cm) in length, flat, and light bluish-green to bright green in color. Leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Flowers: Tamaracks are monoecious: male and female reproductive organs (flowers) occur on the same tree. (In dioecious species, some plants have male reproductive structures while others have female.) Male flowers are yellowish, small and rounded in clusters near branch tips. Female flowers are reddish brown, egg-shaped, with many scales.
Fruits: Small upward-pointing egg-shaped cones, reddish-brown, maturing to brown, ⅜-⅞" (1-2.3 cm). They remain through the winter.
Larix laricina at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity
Larix laricina on conifersociety.org
Larix laricina on Wikipedia
Larix laricina on The Gymnosperm Database
Larix laricina on the New England Wildflower Society’s GoBotany site
Larix laricina on www.lakeforest.edu
Larix laricina description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 12 Oct 2018.