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Western Larch

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Wood identification

Wood identification

The tree you may know as tamarack, hackmatack, or eastern larch is the species Larix laricina. It grows from the Yukon east to Newfoundland and south to Wisconsin and New York. The tamarack shares all the physical characteristics, except great size, of its commercially important cousin, western larch (Larix occidentalis), which is the focus here. Western larch primarily grows in the mountains. In prime growing conditions, the western larch can attain a 200' height and a 7' diameter. Such a tree might have 100' of branchless trunk. The western larch has fine, feathery, flexible needles that occur in clusters on the branches. Cones are about 1?" long. Each autumn, the needles turn yellow, then fall. Come spring, new needles appear carrying a bright shade of green. Larch's distinctive bark helps in identification, too. A dull cinnamon brown color, the bark grows in many small, irregularly rounded plates, sometimes nearly 6" thick. The wood of the larch ranks as one of the strongest among softwoods. And at 39 pounds per cubic foot air-dry, it's as heavy as many hardwoods. The hard, reddish brown wood has straight, uniform grain with tough fibers and a fine texture. Its extractives and resin make it durable.

Continued on page 3:  Uses in woodworking


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