Larix Laricina : Larch


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Coniferae (cone bearing)

Family: Pinaceae (Pine Family)

Genera: Larix (Larch) (Lat. lar=fat referring to the resin)

Species: Laricina (Lat. lar=fat referring to the resin)

Synonym(s): L.alaskensis

English Name(s):

Larch, Tamarack, Alaskan Larch

First Nation Names:

ts'iiteenjuh (Gwichya)or tsiiheenjoh (Teetl'it)



  • Small tree 6-10 meters tall.


  • Deciduous. Turning bright yellow in autumn before falling off.
  • Arise in tufts of 10-20 leaves (needles).
  • Needle-like

Reproductive Parts:

  • Female (seed-bearing) cones broad egg-shaped dark red when firtile becoming woody and brown when mature.
  • Male cones egg-shaped and small.


  • Seeds are winged.

Not to Be Confused With:

  • No other conifer tree in our area has leaves (needles) in tufts and none are deciduous.



  • An insect outbreak in the 1930s destroyed all tamarack of any size. But their bare dry trunks can still be seen standing in some northern bogs as a tribute to their durability.
  • Contains a volotile oil made up of pinene, larixine, and the ester bornylacetate.
  • Producing leaves (needles) each year takes alot more nutrients and energy than keeping them for multiple years. The advantage of being deciduous is no stress on the leaves (needles) over winter.

Life Cycle:

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Leaves (needles) deciduous. Turning bright yellow in autumn then falling off.


Animal Uses:


    • As a deciduous conifer Larix is an ecological puzzle. It manages to live in what is considered an evergreen environment.
    • Muskegs, and wet places, preferring calcareous soils.




    • The wood is more rot resistant than the other conifer trees of our area.
    • The wood is not commonly harvested commercially.


    • One can add tamarack tea to the bath water for inflamed joints.
    • The tea from the needles can be drunk to help expel gas. It is also anthelmintic, diuretic, and laxative.


    • Caution: The volatile oils can irritate the kindeys if too much is consumed over long periods.
    • The needles are high in vitamin C and a tea made from them can be drunk to prevent scurvy.

    Traditional Gwich'in:


    • The Gwitchin would leave an offering when collecting any part of the tree.


    • The roots are strong and were collected coiled and could be stored for later use.


    • A medicinal tea was made for upset stomachs, colds, fatigue and for general good health.
    • A tea made from only the cones was also used. It only takes 4-5 cones.
    • The sap and inner bark were used as a poultice on wounds, cuts, scrapes. After peeling off the outer bark rub the white sappy inner bark off and place in the wound.
    • The tea was made from branches chopped into 10-15cm lengths and boiled for 10 minutes adding water as it boils down.


      Traditional Other:



        • The roots were peeled and split and used to stitch the seams of birck bark canoes.
        • The tamarack was the wood of choice for sleds, snowshoes, drums, paddles when birch was unavailable.
        • Was used widely in Europe for ship building as the wood was considered almost indestructable.


        • A pitch was made from the sap/inner bark to hold deep cuts closed.
        • People getting a sore throat could chew the inner bark as tamarack gum.
        • the Chipewyan call the soft inner bark 'tamarack fat' and used it as a poultice on burns and boils to draw out the poison and speed healing.
        • The Cree made a tea from the inner bark for washing burns, running or gangrenous sores, and to stop itching.
        • The Cree stripped the inner bark off the tree and used it to treat hemorrhoids, earaches, inflamed eyes, jaundice, colic, and even melancholy.
        • The leaves were dried and powdered then inhaled to relieve colds, bronchitis, and urinary tract problems. A tea made from the bark was often used in conjunction.
        • The Woods Cree boiled the inner bark before applying it to wounds.



          Female cones and yellow leaf (needle) tufts in autumn.

          Larch (yellow) next to Spruce.

          Small tress growing in wet tundra habitat.

          Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

          Range Maps

          World Range: Boreal North America; From NL & LB to central AK.

          Prov/State Abrev. List

          In Yukon: Known from Peel river drainage and Liard River drainage. Not found in the Yukon River drainage.

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