Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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  Prairie Folklore

by Wayne Pauly from Dane County Parks ACTION Adult Conservation Team Newsletter (All folklore stories)


Larch, or Tamarack
Larix laricina


A tamarack has the softest needles of any “evergreen”, and although most folks associate it with northern bogs, a few grew in Dane County at the time of settlement. I enjoy the story told by a Chicago man whose parents had a “cabin” in northern Wisconsin. One spring, 70 years ago, they returned with a beautiful, soft needled pine, which they planted in front of their home. He said his parents received lots of compliments on the gentle pine and condolences that fall when the needles turned a golden tan, as if blighted, and all fell off. All winter the pine looked dead, but in spring a miracle happened—it leafed out. For many years his family enjoyed their little joke, until their friends finally caught on that this evergreen was deciduous

Each Christmas we gather with my wife’s large family in St. Paul and the brother-in-law from Duluth provides the family tree. Some years ago I commented on the attractive homemade tree ornaments, and with tongue in cheek, suggested he should grow tamaracks for Christmas-- no needles would hide the ornaments, no needles in the carpet, and no fire hazard. The idea caught his imagination, because he grew and sheared a couple of dozen with the rest of his trees, but it was a hard sell—everyone wanted a green tree—BIG SURPRISE. His oldest daughter took one, though, and after a few days in a tree stand with water, it leafed out with beautiful, soft, light green needles---Wow! Still can’t convince grandma to try it though, she prefers tradition
 

Vascular Plants

Plants of Wisconsin

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