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Cone Bearing Evergreens - Larches, Or Tamaracks

( Originally Published 1927 )

The notable characteristic of the small genus, larix, is that the narrow leaves are shed in the autumn. Here is a tall pyramidal conifer which is not evergreen. It bears an annual crop of small woody cones, held erect on the branches, and the leaves are borne in crowded clusters on short lateral spurs, except upon the terminal shoots, where the leaves are scattered remotely but follow the spiral plan. Larch wood is hard, heavy, resinous, and almost indestructible. The tall shafts are ideal for telegraph poles and posts.

The Tamarack

Larix Americana, Michx.

The tamarack or American larch (see illustration, page 263) goes farther north than any other tree, except dwarf willows and birches. Above these stunted, broad-leaved trees pure forests of tamarack rise, covering Northern swamps from Newfoundland and Labrador to Hudson Bay and west across the Rocky Mountains, the trees dwindling in size as they approach the arctic tundras, the limit of tree growth. The wood of these bravest of all conifers is a God-send over vast territories where other supply of timber is wanting. The tough roots of the larch tree supply threads with which the Indian sews his birch canoe.

In cultivation the American species is too sparse of limb and foliage to compete with the more luxuriant European larch, yet it is often planted. Its fresh spring foliage is lightened by the pale yellow of the globular staminate flowers and warmed by the rosy tips of the cone flowers. In early autumn the plain, thin-scaled cones, erect and bright chestnut-brown, shed their small seeds while the yellow leaves are dropping, and the bare limbs carry the empty cones until the following year.

THE LARCHES The Western Larch

L. occidentalis, Nutt.

The Western larch is the finest tree in its genus, reaching six feet in trunk diameter and two hundred feet in height, in the Cascade forests from British Columbia to southern Oregon and across the ranges to western Montana. This tree has the unusual distinction of exceeding all conifers in the value of its wood, which is heavy, hard, strong, dense, durable, of a fine red that takes a brilliant polish. It is used for furniture and for the interior finish of houses. Quantities of it supply the demand for posts and railroad ties, in which use it lasts indefinitely, compared with other timber.

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