Tamarack (Larix laricina) that is native to Canada
There was something about larches that drew Frank Skinner to them as well. Besides the tamarack (Larix laricina) that is native to much of northern Canada, the arboretum collection includes specimens of Siberian larch (L. sibirica), Dahurian larch (L. gmelinii) and European larch (L. decidua).
These collections came from far and wide! Although we’re not certain of the sources, our records show the following sources: The Siberian larch was likely sourced from the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, the oldest specimen of this larch was bearing cones by 1925. The Dahurian larch likely came from A.E. Woekoff, a Russian botanist who worked in Harbin, China and the Yokohama Nursery Company in Japan. The European larch (L. decidua) forms likely came from the Arnold Arboretum and Danish tree seedsman, Johannes Rafn.
This Siberian larch in the arboretum had cones by 1925
Each species has slightly different characteristics which makes it suitable for different environments and purposes. In general larches are fast growing, cold tolerant and the wood is rot resistant. The wood is an important construction material especially in northern Europe and Asia. Although the native tamarack is usually found in swampy locations, it will adapt to growing in the garden. Siberian larch is the last tree to grow into the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, an indication of its drought tolerance. Their value as a landscape tree is limited somewhat by their size but their beauty is undisputed.
Siberian Larch (Larix siberica)
There is one characteristic that is seldom mentioned: a larch is THE best climbing tree! Looking through my childhood eyes, it seemed as though mother nature had created a tree with a built-in ladder! The branches were sturdy, close to the ground, spaced perfectly for a child’s short leg and arm span and there was generally an easy and secure spot to sit in, look out over the neighborhood and contemplate life!
(A big “Thank you” to Hugh Skinner for providing information on both larches and the history of Skinner’s Nursery.)