A Needle Tree That's Not an Evergreen

Almost all trees that have leaves in the shape of needles, plus cones, are evergreens. The tamarack is an exception. In October, the soft, flexible needles turn smoky-gold and fall off. Since the tamarack is a deciduous conifer, its branches will be bare until next spring. The needles are bright green in summer. They are one-half to more than an inch long, and grow in clusters of 20 to 40 on wood from previous years or singly on new shoots.

The tamarack is abundant in the coniferous forest region in Minnesota, chiefly in bogs together with black spruce. Occasionally it is also found in upland areas where it grows larger. It is also native from Alaska and Canada to Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

In southern Minnesota, some people plant tamaracks in their yards as ornamentals. The broad, shallow foot system is adapted to swamp ground, and yet the best growth is on well-drained soils. The slender straight tree can grow to a height of 50 to 60 feet. Young trees, and those crowded together, form narrow, conical heads with short horizontal branches; older trees, or those in the open, form broader crowns.