The western larch (Larix occidentalis) is an unusual conifer in that it is deciduous, not an evergreen. The needles are about an inch long and occur in tufts of twelve or more along the branchlets. In the fall the green needles turn a bright yellow and eventually fall. The larch has a delicate appearance from a distance. The small, scaly cones are scattered all along the branchlets. Starting out bright purple in the spring, the cones eventually turn brown with age. The cones remain on the tree throughout the winter, long after the needles fall.
Larch wood is hard and heavy for a tree that is considered a softwood. The wood is used for construction, but is not of major economic value.
Locally, the western larch is commonly called a tamarack or hackmatack. Colloquial names are very confusing because on the West Coast the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) is also often called a “tamarack”, but P. contorta is not related to the larch/tamarack.
These pictures were taken last fall in a small grove of western larch along Clover Creek Road north of Klamath Falls OR.