Tamarack (Larix laricina)

Tamarack needles photograph; ? MN DNR, M. D. Lee

Form

Straight, upright trunk extending to top of tree; spreading or ascending branches; height 40' to 70', diameter 14" to 24". Large trees are rare because most old specimens were killed years ago by the larch sawfly.

Bark

Rough with thin, reddish brown scales. Twigs are light brown and covered with numerous tiny spurs or short branches.

Leaf

Needlelike, flat, soft, slender, length about 1"; borne in clusters on spurlike branches and distributed singly on terminal shoots; bright green in spring, turning dull yellow in September or October just before falling. Tamarack is the only conifer in Minnesota that sheds all its leaves each fall.

Fruit (seed)

Young cones red or greenish, mature cones light brown; 3/4" long; nearly spherical; open in the fall to liberate small winged seeds. Cones often remain on trees several years.

Range

Found chiefly in the swamps in the coniferous forest region of northern Minnesota; occasionally found in drier localities where it reaches larger size; also found southward scattered in cold swamps throughout the hardwood region as far south as the Twin Cities; shade intolerant.