Larix laricina (Tamarack)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Larch
Family:Pinaceae (Pine)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:sun; moist to wet; boggy swamps, lakeshores, along streams, upland forest
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:30 to 85 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct

[photo of male strobili] Male and female flowers are cone like structures called strobili, both borne on separate branches of the same tree (monoecious). Both male and female cones form at the tips of short, spur like lateral shoots on young branches. Males are globular to oblong, 1/8 to 1/6 inch long with creamy white pollen sacs with a loose collar of brown, papery scales.

[photo of female strobili] Female strobili are erect, egg shaped, ¼ to 3/8 inch long on a short, curved stalk, often emerging within a cluster of leaves. The 10 to 25 cone scales are egg-shaped abruptly tapered to a pointed tip, greenish with deep rose red edging.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are needle-like in tight clusters of 10 to 35 (45) at tips of short, spur-like lateral branches, or singly on new shoots, soft but straight, somewhat flattened, ½ to about 1 inch long, the tip blunt or tapered to a point. Needles turn yellow in fall and drop off.

[photo of twig] New twigs are orangish-brown and smooth, dormant buds are dark red. Branches are horizontal to somewhat ascending.

[photo of mature trunk] The trunk can reach over 2½ feet diameter at breast height (dbh), bark becoming rough with brownish gray flaky scales. By 25 years of age or so, ½ to 2/3 of the trunk is clear of branches.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature fruit] Fruit is an egg shaped cone, ½ to ¾ inch long. Young cones are reddish-purple and ripen to brown the first year, shedding the winged seed by late October. Scale edges are mostly smooth and curve inward.


Tamarck is a common forest species throughout most of central and northern Minnesota. While occassional in upland forests, it is more frequent in swamp lands where it can be associated with other swamp species like white cedar, black spruce, black ash and red maple, or it can be in nearly pure stands. Tamarack is unique in being Minnesota's only native deciduous conifer, however the similar non-native European Larch (Larix decidua) may occasionally be encountered in parks, gardens or old settlement sites. It differs in having slightly longer needles and more per leaf cluster, yellowish gray twigs, often droopy branches, and much larger (2 to 3x) seed cones with more numerous scales that are more spreading.

Native Plant Nurseries, Restoration and Landscaping Services ↓

Map of native plant resources in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Spangle Creek Labs - Native orchids, lab propagated
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Cedar Creek Natural History Center, Anoka County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin, Anoka and Kanabec counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Leigh - The sculpture garden
on: 2018-05-14 18:44:32

Really loved these trees I spotted at the sculpture garden in Minneapolis. Looked them up at a garden center in Illinois. Might try one on my property near Chicago. They are beautiful in the spring.

Posted by: Robert Townswick - Zimmerman
on: 2018-08-06 17:30:24

Approx. when do the Tamarack in the Bemidji area start to change to the gold. We are planning a leaf seeing trip north and would enjoy timing it so the Tamarack are the gold I'm talking about. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Bob T

Posted by: Jeff Holker - Ely
on: 2021-05-15 11:10:09

I planted 10 or so bare root Tammy's about five to seven years ago. They are in a swampy'ish grove along the driveway to our cabin. I had almost 100% survival-greater than similar Red or White Pine plantings. They range in height from 8' to 18'. I just got 25 more from North St. Louis County SWCD, and will fill out the grove, and pu the rest in a wet spot on the lakeshore, and in another wet grove up from the lake. They are beautiful trees that, contrary to what I've read, grow very quickly, even in Zone 2A and B.

Posted by: Jalene Eden - Pine County
on: 2022-04-07 08:53:39

Have plenty of tamarack in and around our wetland areas. Growth rate of trees in the sedge meadow, wet,are very slow 30 to 40 year old trees are 10' to 20'. Trees growing at the edges of the wetland, moist soil, can grow as much as 14" to 16" during the summer, most often 1" to 4". I collect seeds in October when the cones open by tapping the cone,the seeds fall out. I plant them in other areas. Typically they don't do well in dryer soil's and prefer full sun. Planting from seed is a game of patience but worth the effort.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.