American Larch ~ Winter Nature Study

Yesterday before my swim workout we had time to spare so the kiddos and I stopped by the park near the fitness center. They spent a few minutes climbing on the structures and playing on the swings. We then became intrigued by a the multitude of small cones that were scattered about on the ground. We started collecting them – thinking of fun ways to use them in craft projects (pine needle baskets, fairy homes, etc.) – when I started to wonder aloud, “What tree do you think these came from?”

The kids started looking up and matched the cones to those still in the trees. There were only 3 tree species in the vicinity… Ponderosa Pine, Juniper and a third with which we were not familiar. We were able to immediately rule out the Pine and Juniper – these are very common in Central Oregon and we know these two intimately. We knew the cones belonged to the third species – but what was it?

Our biggest clue was that there were only 2 individual trees of this species… both of which were in the backyard of a residence that bordered the park. Interestingly, neither of these trees had any needles whatsoever. Sweetie asked if they were dying. I told her I wasn’t certain but that I knew there was at least one conifer that did in fact drop it’s needles in the fall.
We inquired with a friend with a strong interest in science who also happens to swim with us at the fitness center and she confirmed my guess that the tree in question was likely Tamarack or American Larch (Larix laricina). As these are not native to Oregon – it is no wonder that these 2 trees were likely ornamentals that were planted when homesteaders first came to the area (both trees were mature and I would guess about 100 years old based on their diameter).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera so I was unable to take pictures. I hope I can get back to them before winter is over.

Posted to Barb’s Winter Wednesday Nature Challenge at Handbook of Nature Study.