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Larch Adds Color in the Mountains

western larch
Western Larch or Tamarack or …. (Fullerton Photo)
My caption on this photo is pretty general. I was just going to write something like, “The Tamarack are changing color.” Then, I did a little digging on the web and things became a little more complicated.

Those trees are maybe not Tamaracks, but are probably Western Larch. True tamaracks are known to scientists as Larix laricina and are not native to Montana. However, the Bitterroot Valley is on the southern edge of the range of Western Larch, known as Larix occidentalis. At the higher altitudes, you’ll find the Subalpine Larch, Latin name is Larix lyallii.

My friends have often lumped them altogether as Tamaracks, and it’s a great name for the general public. For instance, there’s the Tamarack Lodge and there’s the Tamarack Festival in Seeley Lake, which just sounds better for tourist purposes than the Western Larch Festival, or even worse, the Subalpine Larch Festival.

If you get out of the North American Continent, look out! There are Russion Larch, Siberian Larch, Dahurian Larch, European Larch, Japanese Larch, and my favorite name, (found in China) the Prince Rupprecht Larch.

All the larch trees are conifers, developing cones of seeds like their neighboring evergreen firs and pine trees. And when you see the forest in the summer, they blend right in with all other green trees. Then here comes autumn and we find out they are deciduous – meaning their needles turn gold and drop off.

And, they can be damaged by insects. The spruce budworm apparently likes to munch on the larch along with the spruce trees of its main diet.

So, I come back to the beginning, wanting to avoid any confusion about what kind of tree we’re seeing.

My caption should be:
Here’s a purty picture of one of the mountainsides in the Bitterroot Valley and, as you can see, there’s gold in them thar hills!

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