Tamarack Tree

Larix laricina, commonly known as the tamarack, hackmatack, eastern larch, black larch, red larch, or American larch, is a species of larch native to Canada, from eastern Yukon and Inuvik, Northwest and also south into the upper northeastern United States from Minnesota to Cranesville Swamp, West Virginia; there is also an isolated population in central Alaska. The word akemantak is an Algonquian name for the species and means "wood used for snowshoes". It is a member of the Pine Family. They differ from other genera in being deciduous and in bearing short, green needle-like leaves on dwarf and long shoots. The gummy sap that seeps from the tree has a very good flavour when chewed.

Larix laricina is a small to medium-size boreal coniferous and deciduous tree. Tamaracks and larches (Larix species) are deciduous conifers. The bark is tight and flaky, pink, but under flaking bark it can appear reddish. The leaves are needle-like, short, light blue-green, turning bright yellow before they fall in the autumn, leaving the pale pinkish-brown shoots bare until the next spring. The needles are produced spirally on long shoots and in dense clusters on long woody spur shoots. The cones are the smallest of any larch, only 1–2.3 cm (3⁄8–7⁄8 in) long, with 12-25 seed scales; they are bright red, turning brown and opening to release the seeds when mature, 4 to 6 months after pollination.

Table of Contents


40 - 80 feet

Width-Circumference (Avg)

15 - 30 feet

Approximate pH

5.5 - 6.5

Types of Tamarack Tree

If you love the tamarack but don't love the space required to have one, there are some options out there for you. The options are many and will accommodate you if your yard is narrow or you don't have much room at all. Here are a few popular cultivars of tamarack to give you some ideas, but there are always new selections being cultivated.

  • Larix laricina 'Northern Torch' is a very dense globose dwarf form of the species. It will only grow to a height of five feet after 10 years.

  • Larix laricina 'Bear Swamp' is a remarkable low spreading dwarf variety that will get wider than it is tall with pleasing greyish blue needles that are a striking contrast to the yellow needles of autumn. This cultivar only grows about 32 inches by 42 inches after 10 years.

  • Larix laricina 'Nash Pendula' is a well-known cultivar with bright green foliage and a unique open pendulous form that reaches 10 feet after 10 years.

Planting Tamarack Tree

Despite all the drawbacks of the quality of the wood, the tamarack tree remains a viable landscaping option especially in wet soil where other trees cannot grow or establish. You can either plant the seed of the tree or buy a sapling at a nursery and plant it in your garden.


The tamarack tree produces seeds at intervals of 3 to 6 years. The tree starts to bear seed cones from the age of 15 onwards. However, the top quality seeds are gathered from trees 50 years and older. Once the tree reaches the ripe old age of 150, the quality of the cones degrades or diminishes.

Tamarack seed germination is one of the lowest in the pine family and probably among all of the conifer species. It’s not just that the seeds need optimal warm soil, high levels of moisture, and plenty of organic matter to grow, many rodents feed on the cones. Bacteria and fungi have a lot to answer for the high mortality rate of the seeds.


Since the tree needs a lot of nutrition, competing with other trees or plants, even of its own species, can be problematic. It’s recommended that you keep enough space between each tamarack tree to prevent competing and also give each tree enough open space to enjoy the uninterrupted sunlight.

If you’re planting the tamarack trees in rows, as is often the case with these ornamental trees, you should keep at least eight feet distance between each tree. Tamaracks used for their wood can be planted only at 6 feet apart.

Tamarack Care

Tamarack trees do not require a ton of work, but they can be a bit fussy and have a few pests that you will need to look out for. If you give a good bit of thought before planting your tamarack, you can avoid many of the problems ahead. When you decide where to plant your tree, realize that this species does not like competition; it will require a good amount of space between it and any other trees to thrive. In nature, tamaracks grow in wet areas such as bogs or swamps. Planting it in an area that gets moisture that replicates these conditions will be best for the tree. This is less important than providing ample sun but will cut down on your supplemental watering needs.


This species of tree requires full sun. Tamarack trees are completely intolerant of shade, so it's important to clear out competing trees or shrubs. Making sure that your tree can grow in direct sun should help to ensure it gets adequate spacing. Place it at least 15 feet from any other trees.


Wet, organic soil is best for Larix laricina. It is native to a type of bog called muskeg, which is comprised of peat. This rich wet acidic soil is preferred and will help your tree thrive, but as far as soil needs go, the tamarack is more adaptable here than it is for its sun requirements.


Tamarack trees require some supplemental water, especially during periods of drought and when the tree is first establishing itself. It will not tolerate being overly dry, so keeping the soil beneath it moist is important. On initial planting, adding two to three inches of good organic mulch to the dripline will help retain moisture. After a few seasons, you won't need to add more mulch since the tree makes its own beautiful needle mulch.

During the first three years, it is important to give your tree water weekly. Follow the standard of 10 gallons per inch of trunk diameter measured by caliper at knee height. If the weather is really dry, increase the water to 15 gallons—the tamarack won't mind!

Temperature and Humidity

The tree needs cool weather during the summers and can handle extreme colds during the winters. It just cannot tolerate the hot, humid weather that comes outside. For those that love the look of this beautiful tree but cannot afford to relocate far enough north, try the equally gorgeous Golden Larch (Pseudolarix amabilis).


The tamarack is used to growing in the wild and will do fine without much supplemental fertilizer once established. It is always a good idea to take a cue from nature. Fertilizing immature trees with some organic compost for the first few seasons will give it a little boost, but after that let nature doing its wonders.

Propagation of Tamarack

Seed - sow late winter in pots in a cold frame. One months cold stratification helps germination. It is best to give the seedlings light shade for the first year. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots. Although only a few centimetres tall, they can be planted out into their permanent positions in the summer providing you give them an effective weed-excluding mulch and preferably some winter protection for their first year. Otherwise grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in early summer of the following year. The seed remains viable for 3 years If you are growing larger quantities of plants, you can sow the seed in an outdoor seedbed in late winter. Grow on the seedlings in the seedbed for a couple of years until they are ready to go into their permanent positions then plant them out during the winter.

Pests and Plant Diseases

Though other pests may harrass your tamarack, nothing will deliver as much trouble for your tree as quickly as the larch casebearer and larch sawfly. These two insects can inflict major damage to the bark and branches on the tree by nibbling away at it. If the wounds are severe enough, they can be fatal.

There is no chemical treatment for the larch casebearer, but there are numerous biological controls. Luckily, casebearer damage is rarely fatal for a tree.

To treat the larch sawfly, you should pick off any larvae you see on your tree, being sure that it is actually that of the sawfly and not a beneficial insect. Then, to create the lowest impact, treat the tree with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. You should reapply as needed.

Benefits of Tamarack Tree

  • Tea made from bark is used as diuretic, alterative, tonic and laxative.

  • Use it for treating anemia, jaundice, colds, rheumatism and skin problems.

  • Use it as a gargle for treating sore throats and apply it as a poultice for sores, swellings and burns.

  • Apply the poultice of boiled inner bark to wounds for treating infections, burns, deep cuts and frostbite.

  • Chew the resin for indigestion.

  • Use it for treating piles and diarrhea.


The wood is tough and durable, but also flexible in thin strips, and was used by the Algonquian people for making snowshoes and other products where toughness was required. The natural crooks located in the stumps and roots are also preferred for creating knees in wooden boats. Currently, the wood is used principally for pulpwood, but also for posts, poles, rough lumber, and fuelwood; it is not a major commercial timber species. Tamarack wood is also used as kickboards in horse stables.

It is also grown as an ornamental tree in gardens in cold regions. Several dwarf cultivars have been created that are available commercially. Tamarack is commonly used for bonsai.

Tamarack poles were used in corduroy roads because of their resistance to rot. Tamarack posts were used before 1917 in Alberta to mark the northeast corner of sections surveyed within townships. They were used by the surveyors because at that time the very rot-resistant wood was readily available in the bush and was light to carry. Their rot resistance was also why they were often used in early water distribution systems.

The aboriginal peoples of Canada's northwest regions used the inner bark as a poultice to treat cuts, infected wounds, frostbite, boils and hemorrhoids. The outer bark and roots are also said to have been used with another plant as a treatment for arthritis, cold and general aches and pains.

Wildlife use the tree for food and nesting. Porcupines eat the inner bark, snowshoe hares feeds on tamarack seedlings, and red squirrels eat the seeds. Birds that frequent tamaracks during the summer include the white-throated sparrow, song sparrow, veery, common yellowthroat, and Nashville warbler.

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