wpe5.jpg (2127 bytes)U.P. TREE  IDENTIFICATION  KEY
from Michigan State University Extension

Tamarack, European Larch
Family Pinaceae

ETAM-top.jpg (7525 bytes)Larches are graceful, delicate-looking trees with species that occur around the world.  There are two species in the United States with one native to the U.P.  Larches lose their NEEDLES in the Fall, unlike all conifers.   They are generally rapid-growing species and can invade new areas fairly readily, if given full sunlight.  Mostly a family of the northern hemisphere, the Pinaceae have 9 genera and about 210 species.  The genus Larix is shown on this page.   Other U.P. genera are Pinus (pines), Picea (tamarack), Tsuga (hemlock), and Abies (firs). 

Tamarack.jpg (41217 bytes)   TAMARACK (Larix laricina)
Other Names:   Eastern Larch, American Larch, Hackmatack
  Key ID Features:  Needle Clusters, Cones, Habitat, Fall Color

ETAM-leaf.jpg (61552 bytes)ETAMspurs.jpg (50857 bytes)ETAM-cones.jpg (92931 bytes)  ETAM-yellow.jpg (84665 bytes)ETAM-habitat.jpg (80949 bytes)
Tamarack is unique among native U.P. conifers in that is loses all the NEEDLES each fall in a blaze of gold.  Up to a couple dozen needles grow in clusters from the end of small SPUR BRANCHES along the twigs.  The needles are about an inch long and are very soft.  The CONES are small and roundish, about a half-inch in size.  The BARK is dark gray and flaky, similar to black spruce.  Tamarack forms a very straight and tall TRUNK with little taper.  The wood is somewhat rot-resistant and is very hard.  Either in pure stands or often associated with black spruce, tamarack generally can be found in WETLANDS, but actually is a very rapid grower on upland sites.  Common pests: larch casebearer, dwarf mistletoe, porcupines

EUROPEAN LARCH  (Larix decidua)
Other Names:  None Known
Key ID Features:  Needle Clusters, Cones, Habitat, Fall Color

ELAR-ETAM leaf.jpg (50558 bytes)ELAR-ETAM cones.jpg (47055 bytes)ELAR-form.jpg (50697 bytes)   

Very similar to tamarack, European larch also loses its NEEDLES in the Fall.  Larch is found more often on upland sites, rather than in wetlands, will grow faster, and to a larger size.  Most of the larch in the U.P. is grown in plantations for pulpwood fiber.  The CONES are about one inch long, larger than tamarack.  Common pests: larch casebearer, dwarf mistletoe, porcupines

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This site created and maintained by Bill Cook, MSU Extension Forester for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   Editing and modification is ongoing.  Submit suggestions, questions, and corrections to cookwi@msu.edu or call 906-786-1575.