Larix occidentalis Nutt.
Western Larch, Western Tamarack
Pinaceae (Pine Family)
USDA Symbol: LAOC
Western larch is a large tree to 200 ft. tall. At maturity the trunk is mostly bare with scaly, cinnamon-colored bark. The deciduous needles are pale green, coloring to deep golden in the fall. Very large deciduous tree with narrow, conical crown of horizontal branches. Cone-covered branches are an attractive winter feature.
Western Larch often follows or survives fires, later being replaced by other conifers. The natural sugar, or galactan, in the gum and wood resembles a slightly bitter honey and can be made into medicine and baking powder. Grouse eat the buds and leaves. The wood is used for construction, paneling, flooring, utility poles, plywood, and pulpwood.
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Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 200 feet, occasionally taller.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Red , Yellow , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Pollen cones yellow. Seed cones reddish brown. Bloom times refers to cone production.
DistributionUSA: ID , MT , OR , UT , WA , WY
Canada: AB , BC
Native Distribution: E. of the Cascades from s. B.C. to Deschutes Co., OR, e. to n.w. MT, n. ID & n.e. OR
Native Habitat: Lower, eastside, mt. slopes; valleys; swampy areas.
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet soils.
PropagationDescription: Propagate by seed.
Seed Collection: A ripe cone is made up of woody scales, each of which bears two seeds at the base. Seeds are wind dispersed, so many cones still on the tree may be empty. The seed is winged and triangular in shape. Collect in fall.
Seed Treatment: Pretreatment is not usually necessary. If seeded in spring, a cool-moist stratification for 20-60 days is often used.
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
National Wetland Indicator Status
Web ReferenceWebref 62 - Burke Herbarium Image Collection (2020) University of Washington
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Larix occidentalis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Larix occidentalis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Larix occidentalis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-06-06
Research By: TWC Staff