2017 June 10

I photographed these trees on July 30, 2016. They were growing alongside a small stream that cuts across the expanse of stamp-sand about two miles southwest of Eagle Harbor.


From a distance, they look like any one of several types of conifer trees, but closer up we can see that their needles grow in tufts that don’t look much like what you see in pine, spruce, or fir trees.



Not all the needles grow as clumps, the ones near the growing tip of the branch are attached as single needles.


These needle clumps are extremely distinctive, the only local tree that looks like that are Tamaracks, Larix laricina. They have another trait that is even more distinctive among the conifers (but that we can’t see here because the pictures were taken in summer) – they are not evergreens, they drop their needles in the winter just like the broadleaved deciduous trees. Which means that in the winter, they look dead.

Tamaracks are very cold-tolerant trees, partly because of their needle-shedding trait, and can grow in places where the winter temperatures get down to −65°C (−85°F). For reference, this is getting pretty close to the sublimation temperature for dry ice (frozen Carbon Dioxide) at −78.5°C (−109.3°F)! As one might expect from this, Tamaracks are very common through most of Canada and parts of Alaska. If the range maps are to be believed, Michigan is actually part of the extreme southern part of their range.

The wood is supposed to be light, flexible, and rot-resistant, and used to be popular for making snowshoes and fence posts. They also make nice bonsai specimens, the small needles make them look good at a small size. There is still some demand for it as lumber, but not as much as for some of the other conifers. As far as insects that eat them, the main one is the Larch Sawfly, which has periodic outbreaks that defoliate the trees.

One Response
  1. K T Cat permalink
    June 21, 2017

    Streams? We don’t have those here in San Diego. We don’t get enough rain or have enough water. It’s why we can’t have nice things like trees.

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