The tamarack, or eastern larch, is a deciduous evergreen tree that sheds its needles in the fall, only to regrow them the following spring, forming a whorl at the end of the twig, which makes identification fairly easy. The needles have a beautiful yellow – orange fall color.

The tamarack is a pioneer species— it is one of the first to grow in areas that are devoid of trees; like most pioneer species, it needs a lot of sunlight, quickly dying out if relegated to the shade. Often colonizing burned areas following a major forest fire, tamarack will grow on vegetative mats on lakes that are filling in with sediments and plant growth. Despite its propensity for seeding in after forest fires, this thin-barked tree is sensitive to fire, and often succumbs following subsequent fires.

The tamarack tree has initial fast growth, but it does not get very large at maturity; a height of 70 feet and girth of 30 inches would be considered a very large one. Despite their smaller size, tamaracks growing under optimal conditions, with a lifespan of up to 200 – 300 years of age. It has one of the broadest distributions of North American trees, found throughout the northern tier of this country, Canada, and much of Alaska. The tamarack is found in the Cranesville Swap in Garrett County. This larch often grows in conjunction with northern white cedar, black spruce, quaking aspen, and balsam fir, and can tolerate very cold temperatures, often found at tree line in the mountains and near the edge of tundra in the north. While it can be found in a number of sites, the tamarack is usually associated with sphagnum bogs, lowland areas, and stream valleys in the southern part of its range.

This tree got its name from the Algonquin Indian word meaning “wood used for snowshoes.” Native Americans also made medicines from its bark and roots to help alleviate frostbite, wounds, and various ailments. There are several cultivars of the larch tree that are popular in northern regions.

Article by FCFCDB

Page header photo credit: wikimedia.org

Nature note for 5/22/21