Wild Profile: meet the tamarack

A-stand-of-golden-yellow-tamaracks-in-Yoho-National-Park-BC By ML Harris/Shutterstock

Whoever heard of an evergreen that doesn’t stay evergreen? We have one right here in Canada—the native tamarack, one of the few deciduous conifers in the world.

Fall is the tamarack’s time to shine. Come October, its needles change from green to golden yellow. By mid-November, the tree—also called the American larch—has shed its foliage completely, and will remain bare through the winter. Its spring foliage sprouts pale green and eventually grows into soft, lacy blue-green tufts. A tamarack’s needles never gain a waxy coat, a feature of the needles of most evergreens that have to endure winter weather.

Hardy tamaracks grow in every province or territory. Unlike some other species, they can survive in almost any soil condition and temperature range, but they thrive in wet conditions. You’ll often find them growing successfully beside bogs and swampy areas, using their shallow roots to pull nutrients and oxygen from the water.

The tamarack has another claim to fame—it was declared the arboreal emblem of the Northwest Territories in 1999. Its wood is heavy and decay-resistant, used for everything from posts, poles, and railroad ties to dogsled runners, fish traps, and boat ribs.

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