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Tamarack

Needles of the tamarack.

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.

Botanical name:

Larix laricina

All Common Names:

tamarack, eastern larch

Family (English):

Pine

Family (Botanic):

Pinaceae

Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree

Foliage:

  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-80 feet

Mature Width:

30-50 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 2,
  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago)

Soil Preference:

  • Wet soil

Tolerances:

  • Wet sites,
  • Occasional flooding,
  • Clay soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • Intolerant of pollution

Ornamental Interest:

  • 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:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Pyramidal

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

Transplants Well:

  • Yes

Wildlife:

  • Birds,
  • Browsers,
  • Small mammals

More Information:

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

C-Value:  10
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.

Location of Larix laricina (Tamarack) at the Arboretum