When I was around nine, I became fascinated with tamarack trees. They were different from the other evergreens, pine, spruce and fir that grew in the heavy woods around our home. I wasn’t sure why they were unlike the others.
I was drawn to them because they felt quite welcoming when I touched them. I could lean into the tree and spread my small arms the length of the branches without getting poked or scratched. The needles were soft, delicate and pliable.
The needles of a tamarack are indeed soft, flexible and gentle to the touch. They grow one-by-one in whorls along the shoots, unlike the needles of pine, spruce and fir that grow in clumps or bundles that are stiff and prickly.
Another intriguing tamarack difference, they are the only evergreens that lose their needles, deciduous conifers. In the fall, tamaracks turn a vibrant golden-yellow and shed all their needles.
In winter, their naked trunks and branches stand in contrast to most evergreen conifers that retain their dark green colours all year long.
In spring, the tamarack begins to grow new pale green needles. By early summer, though they seem to be a paler green than other conifers, a light blue-green shade, they are again fully needled, lush and soft.
Tamaracks are slow growing hardy trees that do well in a moist, acidic, well-drained soil. The low lying areas in our yard would be perfect.
Do we have any tamaracks? No. Not yet anyway.
I loved them when I was a child and love them, still. Now I understand what makes them so unique, this magic tree of childhood.