Larix laricina (Tamarack)

Plant Info
Also known as: American Larch
Family:Pinaceae (Pine)
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct

[photo of male strobili] 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.

[photo of female strobili] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] 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.

[photo of twig] New twigs are orangish-brown and smooth, dormant buds are dark red. Branches are horizontal to somewhat ascending.

[photo of mature trunk] The trunk can reach over 2½ feet diameter at breast height (dbh), bark becoming rough with brownish gray flaky scales. By 25 years of age or so, ½ to 2/3 of the trunk is clear of branches.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed without plume

[photo of mature fruit] 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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More photos

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?

Posted by: Leigh - The sculpture garden
on: 2018-05-14 18:44:32

Really loved these trees I spotted at the sculpture garden in Minneapolis. Looked them up at a garden center in Illinois. Might try one on my property near Chicago. They are beautiful in the spring.

Posted by: Robert Townswick - Zimmerman
on: 2018-08-06 17:30:24

Approx. when do the Tamarack in the Bemidji area start to change to the gold. We are planning a leaf seeing trip north and would enjoy timing it so the Tamarack are the gold I'm talking about. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Bob T

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