The Gymnosperm Database


Larix laricina at Alton Bog, along I-95 in Maine (USA). It commonly grows in bogs, often in association with Picea mariana, visible in the background [C.J. Earle, 2003.07].


Foliage on the tree above. Note short and long shoots; the latter are near full extension for this growing season [C.J. Earle, 2003.07].


Distribution map (USGS 1999.


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Conservation status

Larix laricina

(DuRoi) K. Koch 1873

Common names

American larch, eastern larch, black larch, red larch, eastern tamarack, hackmatack (Peattie 1950), mélèze laricin [French] (Parker 1993).

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Pinus laricina DuRoi 1771; Larix alaskensis W. Wight; L. laricina var. alaskensis (W. Wight) Raup (Parker 1993).

Disjunct Alaskan populations of Larix laricina, originally described as Larix alaskensis on the basis of narrower cone scales and bracts, are indistinguishable from other populations of the species (Parker 1993).


"Trees to 20 m; trunk to 60 cm dbh; crown narrow, branches sparse. Bark of young trees gray, smooth, becoming reddish brown and scaly, inner layer red-purple. Branches horizontal or slightly ascending; twigs orange-brown, glabrous. Buds dark red, subtended by ring of hairlike bracts, glabrous. Leaves of short shoots 1-2 cm × 0.5-0.8 mm, 0.3-0.5 mm thick, keeled abaxially, rounded adaxially, pale blue-green; resin canals 10-20 µm from margins. Seed cones 1-2 × 0.5-1 cm, usually on curved stalks 2-5 × 2-2.5 mm, sometimes sessile on long shoots; scales 10-30, margins entire, brown-strigose to -tomentose at base; bracts mucronate or tipped by awn to 1 mm, hidden by mature scales, at first dark red to violet, later turning yellow-brown. Pollen 53-65 µm diam. Seeds with bodies 2-3 mm, wings 4-6 mm. 2n=24" (Parker 1993).

Distribution and Ecology

Canada: Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland; France: St. Pierre and Miquelon; USA: Alaska, Minnesotsa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine at 0-1200 m in boreal forests, typically in wet, poorly drained sphagnum bogs and muskegs, also on moist upland mineral soils (Parker 1993). See also Thompson et al. (1999). Hardy to Zone 2 (cold hardiness limit between -45.6°C and -40.0°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001). Grows as krummholz at the arctic (and locally, alpine) timberline (pers. obs. 1991, 2011).

Distribution data from USGS (1999). Points plotted as tree icons represent isolated or approximate locations.

Big tree

Height 33 m, dbh 110 cm, crown spread 14 m, in Phoenix, MD (American Forests 1996).


"[A]pparently the oldest reported" is 371 years, a crossdated date (Payette and Gagnon 1979).



The strong durable wood is used for railway ties, pilings, and posts; it formerly was used for boat construction. Slow-growing trees develop wood with high resin content, making it decay resistant but limiting its value as pulpwood. The bark contains a tannin that has been used for tanning leather. Although tamarack is the most rapidly growing boreal conifer under favorable conditions, it is of little commercial interest because of insect and disease problems and its poor pulping properties (Parker 1993).


Easily seen in boreal forest habitats through the northern portions of its range, for example in Denali National Park (AK), Riding Mountain National Park (Man.) and Acadia National Park (ME).



American Forests 1996. The 1996-1997 National Register of Big Trees. Washington, DC: American Forests. This is a dated citation; the big tree register is now available online.

Koch, K. H. E. 1873. Dendrologie, vol. II. Erlangen (p. 263).

See also

Burns and Honkala (1990).

FEIS database.

MacKinnon et al. (1992).

Owens and Simpson (1986).

Parker and Dickinson (1990).

Powell (1987).

Last Modified 2017-12-29