Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Swamp-Loving Tree of Smoky Gold

Tamarack trees shimmer in smoky gold in an Oakland County wetland (photos by J. Schechter)

To the Chippewa the tree that turns smoky gold in later autumn was known as 'muckigwati' a word that translated as swamp tree. And that name is just perfect for the tamarack  is most commonly found in wetlands, swamps and  sphagnum bogs of glacial origin. The tree is unique in the fact that although it  resembles other evergreens during spring,  summer and early autumn it is a deciduous conifer and sheds all its needles every year in late autumn.  In Oakland County (Michigan) the tamaracks have just reached  their transformation peek from pale green to smoky gold and are about to shed their needles!  
The tamarack holds the Latin name Larix laricina and is also known as the both the eastern larch  and the American larch.

Tamarack needles are in brush-like tufts and their cones are less than one inch long

According to Aboriginal Plant Use in Canada‚Äôs Northwest Boreal Forest the inner bark  of tamarack is used as a poultice in treating wounds, frost bite, boils and hemorrhoids an the outer bark is used as a treatment for arthritis and colds. A tea from the bark has  been used as a tonic and laxative and skin ailments  Old literature and notes mention that the inner bark when crushed has been used with success on sores and burns. My friend, Sakoieta Widrick, a native American and instructor of Aboriginal Studies and Mohawk Language in Ontario  emphasized "The Indigenous nations use of trees, plants and other grasses and bushes was only part of a healing formula. There was a ceremony that had to be done, asking the tree for permission to use it for healing purposes  as  well as taking those ingredients at the proper time during a yearly cycle which would insure the medicinal use was  at its strongest. In this way medicines were used by the Native people of North America."

photos by Jonathan Schechter at Independence Oaks & Highland Oaks County Parks

There are few trees as beautiful as a tamarack suddenly laced in gold against a brilliant blue sky. 
 Sadly many humans are unaware of the natural seasonal transformation of the tamarack and wonder
 if perhaps a blight has yellowed their beloved evergreen when they note the rapid color change.
 Others have gone a step further and cut down their trees; only to discover later their horrific error.
And that is why I wrote this blog, to share the wonders of our swamp tree that turns smoky gold.


Anonymous Sakoieta said...

Excellent post.

November 11, 2013 at 7:41 AM 

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