Origin: Saint Quentin, New Brunswick
Improvement status: Wild
Seeds per packet: ~100
BOTANICAL SAMPLE - NOT GERMINATION TESTED
Life cycle: Perennial
Tamarack, or eastern larch, is a beautiful native coniferous tree. It is most often found in the wild in boggy sites and tolerates acidic, waterlogged soils with poor fertility, but it is adaptable enough to grow in many other habitats. Unlike most conifers, but similar to bald cypresses and dawn redwoods, tamarack is deciduous. Its needles become a strikingly yellow color and then fall every autumn.
According to Gaia Herbs, Wabanaki people "utilized a tea of the bark for coughs; Abitibi people used the leaves and inner bark for sore throats; Chippewa people would use a poultice of the inner bark for burns, and the Menominee would use a poultice of the inner bark for inflammation. Algonquin people used a tea of the young branches as a laxative; Montagnais people used a tea of the bark and buds as a diuretic and expectorant; Ojibwe would crush the leaves and bark and apply for headaches, and would use an herbal steam for aching muscles as well as an air cleanser."
Tamarack is widely considered one of the best North American trees for bonsai, made all the more interesting by its deciduous nature. Their trunks grow thick while still young, making them appear older than they are, and they can withstand regular pruning. They also produce pretty little cones — red when fresh — which seem in proportion to a small tree. It can (and probably should) be kept outdoors year-round in most of North America. (The bonsai depicted here had been in training for 36 years at the time of the photo. Bonsai artist is Nick Lenz.)
Our seed comes from Saint Quentin, New Brunswick, Canada, and was imported by the good folks at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.
GROWING TIPS: Seeds will germinate without pretreatment, but 30-60 days cold stratification may speed things up. Soak in warm water and let stand for 12 hours before planting. Fall sowing in mulched beds is a great way to go. Sow seed 1/4" deep. Best for zones 2-7. Trees have a straight trunk and a narrow pyramidal crown.
Photo credits: Red cone photo is by Steven Katovich, US Forest Service, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States license (though it should be automatically public domain if he was on the clock!). Three trees photo is by Jason Sturner, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Fresh-growth photo is by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The rest are public domain.