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Tamarack is a beautiful native conifer that loses its needles in fall. It is native to the Chicago region, but is on the list of threatened plants for the state of Illinois. It is commonly found in wet, swampy or boggy locations, but can grow in other locations as long as soil moisture is consistent. This tree looks good through many seasons. In spring, small rosy pink cones can be seen as new needles begin to emerge. In summer, the soft green needles give the tree a fine texture. In autumn, the needles turn yellow before they fall. Since this tree is on the threatened list, it should never be collected from the wild. Purchase only from reputable nurseries that sell plants propagated from a non-wild source. This plant may be difficult to find. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Pine
  • Family (botanic) Pinaceae
  • Planting site Residential and parks
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-80 feet
  • Mature width 30-50 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 2, Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Chicago)
  • Soil preference Wet soil
  • Tolerances Clay soil, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall, early summer, late spring, late summer, mid fall, mid spring, midsummer
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Pyramidal
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations Intolerant of pollution
  • Wildlife Birds, Browsers, Small mammals
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

C-Value: 10.  Common to swamps and bogs.  In Illinois found only in the Chicago region.

Bark color and texture:

Scaly, reddish brown bark,  with dark red-brown inner bark showing between the scales.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture: 

Deciduous needles in bundles of 10 to 20; soft to the touch.  Needles are light green in summer, turning yellow in autumn before falling.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Male flowers are small cone-like structures containing pollen; female flowers are rosy pink cones that become woody when pollinated; inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

Small (1/2 inch) woody cones, light brown, upright on stems.

Plant Care:

Best in cool climates with adequate soil moisture.  Dislikes heat and drought.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances: 

Larch case-bearer and larch sawfly can attack this tree.  Disease problems are infrequent.  The shallow root system makes this tree prone to wind throw.

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