They belong to the same genus as larix, but are of distinct species. Tamarack is Larix laricina, whereas Western Larch is Larix occidentalis. "What I advise folks is to call them whatever their grandmother called them, and you can't go wrong," Beall adds. "Tamarack is the popular name, so if that's what people know it as, then use it."
The two trees are very similar, with tamarack usually being a little smaller at about 20 feet (6 m) tall and larch typically being larger at more than 100 feet (30 m) tall. They also have similar foliage: long, slender, dark green branches covered in reddish-brown bark that peels away in large flakes. But unlike larch, which grows in temperate climates only, tamarack can be found in both cold and warm regions. It was historically used for timber, but today most is burned for fuel.
In addition to its common name, tamarack has other names depending on where it is grown. In Canada, Sweden, and Finland, it is called "snow tree" because its needlelike leaves turn red or yellow in fall before they drop off to reveal the bright green spring growth underneath. In Germany, it is known as "linden tree" after an ancient variety of larch that was formerly widespread across northern Europe.
The Larix laricina, often known as tamarack or larch, is a deciduous conifer with soft needles that turn golden in the fall, fall from the tree, and reappear in the spring. Tamaracks frequently offer suitable homes for a diverse range of plants, which in turn support a diverse range of birds and other creatures. The bark is used by lumberjacks to make turpentine and tar.
Tamaracks grow in most parts of the world except Antarctica. They are found in both cold and temperate climates, but they do not like very cold temperatures. In fact, tamaracks will not live more than about 100 miles north or south of the Canadian border, and they cannot be found in very cold regions such as Greenland or northern Russia. However, they can be found as far west as Minnesota and Michigan, and as far east as New York State.
Tamaracks usually get their name from the French term for this tree, arbre de la mer (tree of the sea).
Although they are native to North America, tamaracks have become naturalized in many other countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Europe.
In Canada, there are two varieties of tamarack: the white or silver-tip larix (Larix alba) and the black or bog larix (Larix gmelinii).
The length of the cone bracts is an essential trait that distinguishes this species from other larches (apart from distribution). The bracts of tamarack are much shorter than the scales, whereas the narrow cone bracts of the two other native Larix species (which grow in western Canada) are much longer than the scales. The short bracts of the tamarack are an important characteristic for identifying its seed cones in the field.
Also note that the black cottonwood is a deciduous tree while the tamarack is evergreen. The larch is semi-evergreen due to its seasonal pattern of growth. It has been observed that the lower branches die back each year but new growth appears the following spring. This is different from the evergreen behavior of the tamarack.
This tree grows in swamps and along rivers in northern regions of North America. It can be found in Manitoba and Northwest Territories in Canada and in Alaska and Northern Michigan in the United States. The black cottonwood is one of the most abundant trees in its range and can form large colonies. It can grow up to 100 feet tall with a trunk as wide as 6 feet. The dark green leaves of the larch fall off during winter and new ones appear the next season. The tree produces small yellow flowers in early summer followed by round orange-colored fruit called samaras. The husks split open when mature to reveal brown seeds covered in bristles.