Natively found across Canada and the northeastern US, this moisture-loving tree has durable wood that has been used to make boats and snowshoes by the Algonquin Indigenous peoples. They aptly call it akemantak, meaning “wood for snowshoes,” which led to its other common name, tamarack. Its Latin species name translates to “larch-like larch,” defining it as a deciduous conifer. The flat, soft needles are produced in dense clusters of spirals on short shoots with a bluish-green color that turns yellow before they fall. Indeed, in New England, it is the only coniferous tree to have this quality, standing apart from the more ubiquitous evergreen pines.
An extremely cold-tolerant boreal species, it is able to survive in temperatures less than -85℉, though it tends to reach heights shorter than its typical 70-100 feet at such extremes. Further, able to endure and reproduce in a wide range of soils, it is usually an early-successional species in areas recently disturbed by fire. Its foliage is a popular nesting site for many species of birds, including the song sparrow and common yellowthroat, as well as a host site for Columbia silkmoth larvae.