Description & Overview

Tamarack is a beautiful Wisconsin native deciduous conifer. Unlike most evergreens and conifers, Tamarack loses its needles each winter season. It has a narrow, open conical form with horizontal branching and drooping secondary branchlets. The soft, bright blue-green foliage turns a rich golden-yellow in fall. A great choice for moist to wet sites where other conifers cannot grow! May also be known as Eastern Larch, American Larch, or Hackmatack.

Core Characteristics

Category: Conifer

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 2

Mature Height: 30-50 feet

Mature Spread: 10-15 feet

Growth Rate: Fast

Growth Form: Conical, Upright

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Prefers moist to wet, well-drained soil. Adaptable to many soils, but drought intolerant

Flower: Monoecious, insignificant yellow male flower, reddish-purple female cones

Bloom Period: April-May

Foliage: Deciduous soft blue-green needles

Fall Color: Gold

Urban Approved: No

Fruit Notes: Minute cone, reddish purple maturing to brown in September, 0.5-1 inch long. Good crops every 3-6 years

Suggested Uses

Tamarack thrives in moist to wet areas. Its growth rate is highly dependent on its site. In swamps and bogs, a six-foot-tall tree may be over 50 years old! However, on well-drained sites, the tree will grow quickly as long as it has full sun. While Tamarack is often thought of like a swamp or bog tree, it does not tolerate sustained flooding. It also struggles with competing plants and will often be replaced by Black Spruce in bog environments.

Tamarack can grow on well-drained upland sites and will still perform in less-than-ideal soils, but it may struggle.

Use it as a specimen plant or to provide light shade. Its deciduous nature and fine texture are well suited to spaces where winter sun is desired, such as a south-facing window.

Tamarack is a beautiful Wisconsin native deciduous conifer. Unlike most evergreens and conifers, Tamarack loses its needles each winter season. It has…

Wildlife Value

White-Throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Veery, Common Yellowthroat, and Nashville Warbler all benefit from Tamarack trees, whether for food or cover. Purple finch, pheasant, Red Crossbill, Pine Siskins, and Redpoll eat the seeds while Bald eagles, osprey, Robins and Blue Jays will use Tamarack for cover and nesting sites. Lowland Tamarack stands are a habitat to Ospreys and the Great Gray Owl farther north. Spruce Grouse and White Winged Crossbill use Tamarack as a food source in winter.

Porcupines will nibble on the inner bark and squirrels, mice, voles, and shrews eat the seeds.

During the growing season, keep an eye out for the native Columbia Silkmoth larvae and other moth species to which Tamarack is a host plant. Northern Pine Sphinx (Lapara bombycoides), Apple Sphinx (Sphinx gordius), Owen’s Angle (Macaria oweni), Poecila Sphinx (Sphinx poecila), Larch Moth (Tolype laricis), Powder Moth (Eufidonia notataria), Morrison’s Pero (Pero morrisonaria), Spongy Moth (Lymantria dispar), Small Pine Looper Moth (Eupithecia palpata), Acadian Sallow (Xylotype arcadia), White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma), Pine Measuringworm Moth (Hypagyrtis piniata), and Black Zigzag Moth (Panthea acronyctoides) are all visitors.

Other insects that feed upon Tamarack include aphids, White-horned Horntail (Urocerus albicornis), long-horned beetles, bark beetles, spittlebugs, and sawflies.

Maintenance Tips

Although adaptable, Tamarack is not tolerant of prolonged drought due to its shallow, spreading root system. A consistent mulch ring around the base will help retain moisture, and the tree should be watered when less than one inch of rain is received per week.

The crown can be raised if desired. For the best results, only prune your Tamarack during the dormant season.

Tamarack is a beautiful Wisconsin native deciduous conifer. Unlike most evergreens and conifers, Tamarack loses its needles each winter season. It has…
Tamarack is a beautiful Wisconsin native deciduous conifer. Unlike most evergreens and conifers, Tamarack loses its needles each winter season. It has…

Pests/Problems

Larch Sawfly and Larch Casebearer are the two main insect pests of the species. These can defoliate a tree and reduce vigor, although they won’t usually cause mortality unless there is a heavy infestation.

In trees with reduced vigor, Armillaria Root Rot can further injure Tamaracks. This disease is best avoided by keeping the tree healthy with enough moisture and mulch.

Since it’s deciduous, it can tolerate salt spray from roadways. However, Tamaracks are intolerant of urban pollution and excessive heat, making it unsuitable for use along roadways with heavy traffic or in areas with the extensive pavement.

Leaf Lore

The American Larch has one of the widest ranges of North American conifers. This extensive spread also gives the tree significant genetic variability. Our Tamaracks are grown from the seeds of local trees, making them adapted to Wisconsin climates.

A mature Tamarack tree can produce over 20,000 cones in a good year, releasing up to 300,000 seeds! The cones will persist on the tree for two to five years and are extremely attractive in winter when the needles have dropped.

In Algonquin, the name means ‘wood for snow shoes’ since its wood is flexible in strips. The roots were used for sewing and the inner bark as a treatment for wounds and frostbite. The wood of Tamarack is valued for its decay resistance and is used for fence posts and railroad ties.

Companion Plants

The foliage of Tamarack provides light shade to plants beneath, so choose companions that can tolerate partial shade:

Tamarack is a beautiful Wisconsin native deciduous conifer. Unlike most evergreens and conifers, Tamarack loses its needles each winter season. It has…
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Written by Johnson's Nursery