Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting Trees

In keeping with our tree theme this week, I thought I’d share something wondrous. We see a great many types of evergreens in Montana. We even have the Ponderosa Pine for our state tree. But recently on a trip to Spokane, Washington, I was quite worried about the state of some of our forests. We have dealt with the pine beetle up our way so I thought I was looking a forest gone bad from invasion of those little bugs. Instead, I was delighted to learn that these trees weren’t in a state of death and dying, they were Larix laricina – Tamarack.

I thought I was pretty familiar with the trees in our neck of the woods, but the Tamarack or American Larch took me by surprise. This species of tree is found in Canada, but also in some of the northern states of the US, and even as far south as West Virginia.

The name Tamarack is from the Algonquian meaning “wood used for snowshoes.”
The Tamarack wood is tough and durable, but also flexible. Tamarack was used in corduroy roads in Alaska and Canada because of their resistance to rot. But the most amazing thing to me is that every fall the Tamarack turns yellow and loses its needles just like other trees lose their leaves. And we’re not just talking a blah yellow. These trees turn a glorious, intense yellow that definitely grabs your attention.

Tamaracks aren’t true evergreens, but rather deciduous coniferous (not carnivorous Cathy - at least I don’t think they eat meat)tree. This means they shed their needles in the fall. They reach heights of 33-66 ft. And can survive in temperatures down to −85 °F – in fact, they love the cold.

Tamarack are known to have a gummy sap that has a great flavor when chewed and is every bit as sweet as maple sugar. The native peoples have long made a tea from the bark that can be used as a laxative, diuretic and help for rheumatism. Poultices can be made from the inner bark and used on wounds and burns and it’s also supposed to be great for headaches. It’s really an amazing tree, and hopefully I will be able to lay my hands on some to plant in my yard.

So there’s my contribution to this week’s tree theme.
God Bless You!

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