Larix laricina (Tamarack)
|Also known as:||American Larch|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- mature Tamarack trees in fall color
- young Tamarack trees in an open bog
- Tamarack in winter
- winter spur branches
- leaves emerging in spring
- young seed cones
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?