Did you know there is a conifer (pine tree) that turns color and drops all of it's needles each fall? The Eastern Tamarack, or Larch tree, grows right here in the northern US and does just that. We very rarely notice this tree because it looks just like a spruce tree in the summer or a dead spruce tree in the winter. But in the fall, right about now, it is shockingly yellow and beautiful amidst the gloomy November forests. As the last bits of the flashy maple leaves finally let go and the aspens tremble in their last show, these conifers flame a brilliant yellow for a short week or two before dropping their needles in a beautiful tapestry below them.
This tree prefers wet soil and is often the first tree to colonize boggy areas, preferring to live in full sun with wet, rich peaty soil. It is slow growing but a very strong wood. It is often sought after for its rot resistant properties and was used by Native Americans to build snow shoes due to its strength and flexibility. It is currently not a very marketable tree for lumber due to it's slow growth and tendency to grow in wet places.
But it is a fantastical landscape tree and stunning when you see it in nature. Its needles are a bright and lacy green, the very epitome of the color of spring when they flush out in April or May. They stay that lighter green all summer and are soft to touch. The tree bears small little cones, similar to a cedar tree but very defined and very much like pine cones.
The Eastern Larch is truly a stunning tree to see in the forest. Since it is so easy to overlook next to spruce and fir neighbors, fall is a great time to look for it. Look in wet areas, swamps, bogs or in forest edges. Enjoy the show!