Going out in a blaze of glory

Everyone has a favorite tree, right?


Is this thing on?

This is a post all about mine – the tamarack pine.

Mooning over you

I guess I could file this under lazy photographer. For several years now, basically since moving to Wisconsin in 2015, I’ve had it in mind to photograph tamarack pines in all their golden splendor. But somehow I never have except in an accidental way, meaning if I went to a location and they were there, I’d shoot them. I didn’t expressly go out to find them or go to where they are plentiful. I have no idea why other than laziness and poor planning.

Alt. sundial

Better late than never I suppose. And now that I’ve done it and found where so many grow with such great accessibility, I’ll be doing it again next year. I hope. And with more close ups. This trip was all about the backlighting and landscapes! They show their golden glory late in the fall season and so can extend your quest for fall foliage by a couple of weeks. Get out there quick though, this stage is very short, sometimes just a single day of their most brilliant color.

For a look back

Tamarack pines, also called the American Larch on this continent, are the only coniferous trees to shed all of their needles in the fall. Like deciduous trees, they go naked all winter long. Many people who don’t know this about them assume that the orange color is because they’re dead or dying, but no, be of good cheer, it’s just their strange lifecycle. Another odd thing is that they are classed as both deciduous (because they drop all their needles) and coniferous (because their seeds are contained in cones).

I dreamed I was awake

They are tolerant of a couple things not many other trees are – poor nutrient environments like bogs and also having their roots perpetually submerged in water. The locations where I shot all these pictures are in wetlands or very near them. Not that that they can’t flourish in other environments, but they will often do well in niches where others don’t. They can also withstand extremely cold temperatures and so flourish in the most northern reaches of the continent.


They are fast growing trees and can live to 200 years if the conditions are right, which is mostly having plenty of water. Mature specimens average between 30 and 60 feet tall. They are NOT drought resistant at all. They also require a lot of sunlight so you won’t find many of them them in thick forests with covering canopy.

There’s always one

Many birds prefer tamaracks for nesting including sparrows, common yellowthroats, Nashville warblers and the veery. Snowshoe hares will nibble seedlings and porcupines like the inner bark of larger trees. The Algonquin word for the tamarack is wood used for snowshoes and that is what wooden snowshoes are still made of today for the most part. Other than as pulpwood, humans don’t have a lot of other uses for tamarack.

If you ever find yourself among these beauties, don’t be afraid to touch them. They have the softest needles you can imagine. Their branches sometimes grow in wavy, crazy ways – they aren’t the most tidy of trees; perpetually looking windblown and as if they just rolled out of bed. That’s one of the reasons I love them so much; they just seem to go their own way, eschewing typical habitats and habits to do their own thing.


4 thoughts on “Going out in a blaze of glory

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  1. This was so interesting to read about. What beautiful trees. I have heard of larch trees, and probably have seen them but never knew what they were. Thanks!

    1. Thanks so much. It was a great day to find these guys – there was hazy sun so nice to bring up contour and texture, but not too harsh if you know what I mean. Plus they’re such gorgeous trees in their messy way.

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