Tamarack is a beautiful native conifer that loses its needles in fall. It is native to the Chicago region, but is on the list of threatened plants for the state of Illinois. It is commonly found in wet, swampy or boggy locations, but can grow in other locations as long as soil moisture is consistent. This tree looks good through many seasons. In spring, small rosy pink cones can be seen as new needles begin to emerge. In summer, the soft green needles give the tree a fine texture. In autumn, the needles turn yellow before they fall. Since this tree is on the threatened list, it should never be collected from the wild. Purchase only from reputable nurseries that sell plants propagated from a non-wild source. This plant may be difficult to find.
This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.
All Common Names:
- Residential and parks
Tree or Plant Type:
- Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
- Chicago area,
- North America
- Large tree (more than 40 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 2,
- Zone 3,
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago)
- Wet soil
- Wet sites,
- Occasional flooding,
- Clay soil
- Intolerant of pollution
- Fall color,
- Showy fruit,
- Attractive bark
Season of Interest:
- Mid spring,
- Late spring,
- Early summer,
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
- Small mammals
Tree & Plant Care
Best in cool climates with adequate soil moisture.
Dislikes heat and drought.
Disease, pests, and problems
Larch case-bearer and larch sawfly can attack this tree. Disease problems are infrequent. The shallow root system makes this tree prone to wind throw.
Native geographic location and habitat
Common to swamps and bogs. In Illinois found only in the Chicago region.
Bark color and texture
Scaly, reddish brown with dark red-brown inner bark showing between the scales.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Deciduous needles in bundles of 10 to 20; soft to the touch.
Needles light green in summer, turning yellow in autumn before falling.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Male flowers are small cone-like structures containing pollen; female flowers are rosy pink cones that become woody when pollinated; inconspicuous.
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Small (1/2 inch) woody cones, light brown, upright on stems.