The Not so EVER…Evergreen

Posted By Wolf Ridge Naturalist
November 7, 2016


Tamarack photo by Rod Kuehn

The American Tamarack has some qualities that distinguish it from other members of the pine family. As with most pine family trees, they have a large area of cleared trunk due to the lower, mature limbs dying and dropping off. But unlike others such as the lodgepole pine, fir, and spruce, the tamarack’s roots grow quite deep, making them less susceptible to wind storms and other things that destruct in that manner. By far the largest quality that sets them apart from the others is the change that takes place throughout the seasons with this deciduous conifer.

The tamarack is one of the last trees to turn color in autumn as its needles lose chlorophyll and reveal yellow xanthophyll pigments. So for the first 3-4 weeks of new needle growth in the spring, they show a pale green color that sets them apart from the others in the pine family, but they slowly darken and eventually blend in until October when they begin to change.

The natural history of tamaracks is also quite unique. Some have been estimated at over 900 years old, and the thick, aged bark as well as the deep roots helps to lengthen their lifespan by providing fire resistance and stability. Native American cultures have found many uses for tamaracks, including building, tea, medicine, and twine from the roots. The Cree use the dropped twigs from the trees to create geese decoys for their annual hunts. Its most widespread use currently is the collection of pulp for paper making.

By: Erika LeMay, Jarrod Klopp, & Brooke Pipenburg