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Larix laricina (Tamarack)
Smith, R.W.

Larix laricina

Larix laricina (Du Roi) K. Koch

Tamarack, American Larch, Hacmatack, Black Larch

Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Synonym(s): Larix alaskensis, Larix laricina ssp. alaskensis, Larix laricina var. alaskensis

USDA Symbol: lala

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), AK (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

American larch or tamarack is a slender-trunked, conical tree, 50-75 ft. tall, with bright green, deciduous needles. The glossy needles appear in remarkably soft tufts in early spring. Deciduous tree with straight, tapering trunk and thin, open, conical crown of horizontal branches; a shrub at timberline. In autumn they color golden-yellow before falling to the ground.

One of the northernmost trees, the hardy Tamarack is useful as an ornamental in very cold climates. Indians used the slender roots to sew together strips of birch bark for their canoes. Roots bent at right angles served the colonists as "knees" in small ships, joining the ribs to deck timbers. The durable lumber is used as framing for houses, railroad cross-ties, poles, and pulpwood. The larch sawfly defoliates stands in infrequent years, causing damage or death.


From the Image Gallery

18 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Cone
Size Notes: Up to about 75 feet tall.
Leaf: Dark Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AK , CT , IL , IN , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , NH , NJ , NY , OH , PA , RI , VT , WI , WV
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NL , NS , NT , ON , PE , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Boreal N. America, s. to B.C., c. MN, extreme n.e. IL, n. PA & NJ; also mts. of WV & MD
Native Habitat: Cold bogs & wet forests

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Wet, acid soils.
Conditions Comments: Tamarack is one of the most cold-hardy native trees. It casts a light shade and may be underplanted with acid-loving wildflowers and shrubs. It is intolerant of shade, heat, and polluted areas. It is also intolerant of dry, shallow, chalky soils, but does adapt to sites slightly drier than its natural habitat. Its deciduousness makes it nearly immune to winter road salt. Prune, if necessary, in mid-summer. The tree is subject to Larch case-borer, Larch saw-fly, wood rot and several rust fungi. The Alaskan tamarack, var. alaskensis, is usually much smaller, barely reaching 30 ft. in height.


Use Wildlife: Seeds are a favorite of crossbills, and the buds are eatem by spruce grouse. Tamaracks are often used as nesting sites.
Use Other: Larch wood is not valued for lumber but has been used occasionally in rough construction and as poles, piers and railway ties. (Kershaw)

First Nations used the roots of tamarack for sewing the strips of birch bark in their canoes. (Peattie)
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Columbia silkmoth

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Columbia silkmoth
(Hyalophora columbia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Description: Seeds germinate fairly well without pretreatment. Sow in fall. Any dormancy can be overcome with stratification. Cuttings are difficult to root. Loses needles in fall.
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

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Larix laricina in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Larix laricina in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Larix laricina


Record Modified: 2019-08-19
Research By: TWC Staff

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