The Mysterious Larch

  • Post published:04/21/2010
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I just came back from checking the Larch seedling I was given ten days ago. I  watered it the first couple of days, but the recent weather has been perfect for transplanting  –  overcast, cool (but not freezing)  and showery. The tree seems to have settled in well. So far.

Larch trees, tamarack, hackmatack, or more properly Larix laricinia, are that mysterious thing, a deciduous pine tree. This is a native tree that can reach 75 feet tall.  It does not mind cold climates,  wet sites or heavy acidic soil, but does like the sun. Birds like the larch, espcially spruce, blue, and sharp-tailed grouse who eat the needles and buds; pine siskin, crossbills, and other birds eat the seeds released from the small cones.

Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin State Herbarium

As majestic as they are,  in spring they are known for their tiny bundles of inch long  needles that emerge in a tender bright green, such an unusual shade in conifers, and then the gold of autumn. Finally all the needles fall off, leaving only the small pine cones.

If you like a little mystery in your garden, and you have the space, this is the tree for you. The hazy springtime green of  spring is enough to catch the eye of visitors, but they will be amazed or confused by the autumnal gold. Aren’t we lucky that our gardens give us so many opportunities to delight and amaze our visitors?

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