3. European Larch

(Larix decidua)

Family: Pinaceae

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On the path next to Garfield Place, across the street from Anderson Hall, is a European Larch. Larches, also called tamaracks, are deciduous conifers, primarily montane and far-northern denizens, able to grow as large as their evergreen peers, with wood as strong and useful, but offering cheery yellow fall color and an April flush of tender new needles beautiful enough to rank with the prettiest sights in treedom. European larch is grown in our area as an ornamental, being more easily cultivated than our two Washington native species, albeit no better-looking. Its cones are soft, 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) long, green flushed with red when immature, brown and opening when mature to release seeds, and turn black and remain on the tree for many years past maturity.

The wood of European larch is tough and durable, but also flexible when cut into thin strips, making this species an ideal material for yacht building. The wood used for yachts must be from older trees that had their side branches pruned when young to prevent knots from forming.  European larch is cold tolerant, surviving in temperatures as low as -58° F (-50° C), allowing it to survive at high altitudes up to 7,900 feet (2,400 meters).

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