Tamarack (Larix laricina)

Tamarack (Larix laricina)

The Tamarack (Larix laricina); also called the American Larch, Eastern Larch, Alaska Larch or Hackmatack; is a monoecious deciduous conifer of the Pine Family (Pinaceae) and order, Pinales. The name "Tamarack" is the Algonquin name for this tree. The genus name is an ancient name for this sort of tree. The species name means "larch-like." The Larches are the only deciduous conifers in Maine and the Tamarack is the only native larch in Maine. The European Larch (Larix decidua) was introduced in the United States as an ornamental and can be distinguished from the Tamarack by the fact that the European Larch has cones longer than the needles. The cones on the Tamarack are shorter than the needles.

This tree grows to a height of 80 feet (24 meters) in a somewhat pyramidal shape with a conical-shaped top. The trunk is tapered with a maximum diameter of about two feet (60 centimeters). The branches are not as densely packed as other conifers.

The leaves are needles up to one inch (2.54 centimeters) long in clusters scattered alternately on the twigs. Some clusters may be found scattered elsewhere on the tree including the trunk. Each needle is three-sided and green during the growing season but turning yellow in the fall before shedding.

Tamarack Needles

The cones are elliptical, up to ¾ inch (19mm) long, upright and stalkless. They are initially red but turn brown as they mature. The cones remain on the tree for two growing seasons scattered among the branches. The cone scales are rounded at the top and overlap one another. The seeds are winged and brown.

Tamarack Cones and Needles

The bark is thin, scaly and reddish-brown.

Tamarack Bark

The branches of the Tamarack are somewhat feathery and clustered. They tend to sag less than other conifers. The Tamarack prefers wet areas.

Tamarack Branch

The root system of the Tamarack has a minimum depth of twelve inches (30 centimeters).

This tree is subject to insect and disease problems that limits its commercial use. However, paper is made from this tree in particular the transparent envelop windows. The high resin content makes the wood decay resistant and useful for framing, posts and railroad ties. The bark also contains tannin in useful quantities for tanning leather. Native Americans used the roots of this tree in canoe construction. It is a useful ornamental in cold climates because it will thrive under conditions where other conifers will not.


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