The Latin name for Tamarack is Larix laricina. Other common names are Eastern Larch, American Larch, Red Larch, Black Larch, takmahak and Hackmatack, which is an Abenaki word for ‘wood used for snowshoes’ (Erichsen-Brown 1979).
The tender spring shoots are nutritious, and can be eaten when they are boiled. The inner bark (cambium layer) of the tamarack tree can also be scraped, dried and ground into a meal to be mixed with other flours… which some references indicate is an ‘acquired’ taste (Peterson 1977), while other references imply the gummy sap that seeps from the tree has a very good flavor when chewed (Hutchens 1973), as sweet as maple sugar.
A tea made from tamarack bark is used as a laxative, tonic, a diuretic for jaundice, rheumatism, and skin ailments. It is gargled for sore throats. Poultices from the inner bark are used on sores, swellings and burns, as well as for headaches. For headaches, Ojibwe crush the leaves and bark and either applied as a poultice, or placed on hot stones and the fumes inhaled (Erichsen-Brown 1979). A tea from the needles is used as an astringent, and for piles diarrhea, dysentery, and dropsy. The gum from the tamarack sap is chewed for indigestion. The sawdust from tamarack may cause dermatitis (Foster & Duke 1977).
The flaky dark reddish-gray bark of the tamarack tree resembles Black Spruce. The pale green needles are soft and short (about an inch long) and grow in brush-like tufts on small knobby spurs along each twig. The cones of the tamarack are also fairly small - round, and less than an inch long (Peterson 1977). Very often you will see the tall tamarack trees growing in pure stands. Just before the needles drop in autumn, the needles turn a beautiful golden color, affording the stands of tamarack a striking contrast to the fall foliage.
Though the tamarack tree resembles other evergreens, it is actually a deciduous conifer, meaning that it sheds it’s needles every fall.
Tamarack trees are well adapted to the cold. The tree's natural range is from Labrador to West Virginia, northern Illinois and New Jersey, across southern Canada to Northern British Columbia Alaska. It grows near sea level in northern regions, and at higher elevations in the southern extreme of it’s range.There is another excellent article about tamaracks from the New York Times, After the Maples, the Golden Tamarack where you will read:
But it's in the Northeast Kingdom [where I live in Vermont], that wild, lonely upland northeast of Montpelier, where the tamarack really comes into its own. This stands to reason - the closer to the arctic treeline you go, the more the tamarack likes it. Every year about the time that maple tree down on our common sheds its last leaf, I take my family on an overnight drive along the back roads of the region, enjoying not only the golden tamaracks and the spare, craggy beauty of the landscape, but the luxury of having it virtually all to ourselves.