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Larix laricina (Tamarack, American Larch) Pinaceae

Larix Laricina, commonly known as tamarack or American larch, is a deciduous conifer,  one of only few species of conifers that are not evergreen and the only native deciduous conifer of Illinois. In the fall the needles of this small to medium sized tree turn a beautiful golden yellow and fall off. 

 

Physical characteristics

Leaf: The needles are arranged in clusters of many on short spurs but can be single on longer shoots. The needles light/pale green and are generally 3/4” to 1” long.

Flower | Seeds:  Monecious, the tamarack has both male and female flowers. They appear in the spring when the needles appear. The male flowers are yellow-green and the female flowers are red. The fruit is a small upright cone which stays on the branch for a year or two. The seeds which are about .12” with a .25” wing are primarily wind dispersed. 

Trunk | Bark: The bark is thin and smooth on young trees becoming thicker and scaly as the tree grows. The tree has a pyramidal crown and can reach a height up to 50’ to 75’.

Life span: Trees live up to about 180 years.

Ecological characteristics

Larix Laricina is typical of northern bogs and is found mostly in cold, wet, poorly drained sites. It is a pioneer species in bogs.  In the distribution map below, the dark green indicates that the tree is native and present in the state, the light green indicates that the tree is present in the county and is native. Click here for the source of the map and a more detailed key.

Distribution range of Larix Laricina

 

Importance to the ecosystem

The tamarack provides food and shelter to wildlife and is a pioneer tree of bogs. 

ES 203: SPRING FLORA OF THE GREAT LAKES

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