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Male and Female Tamarack Cones Maturing

Tamaracks, or American Larches (Larix laricina) are non-flowering plants (often found growing in bogs) that reproduce using seeds that are borne on the woody scales of cones.  Conifers (Tamarack is one of about 20 deciduous conifers, but the only one in New England) have both male and female cones.  The male cones produce pollen which is distributed by the wind and the female cones contain ovules which, when fertilized, develop seeds.

The male (pollen-bearing) cones look like little, round buttons (less than 1/5th of an inch wide), and consist of brown to yellowish pollen sacs with papery scales at their base. After maturing in early spring, they shed their pollen and then wither. The female cones of Tamarack are also small – less than ½ inch – and initially resemble tiny, maroon roses.  As in all conifers, the scales open temporarily to receive pollen, then close during fertilization and maturation, and then re-open again at maturity to allow the seed to escape.

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7 responses

  1. kathiefive

    Mary, we have lots of larches on IAH, but I have never looked closely enough to see the male cones! Thanks for this.

    May 8, 2020 at 9:39 am

  2. Jane R Marshall

    I love Tamaracks. The tiny little cones and the lovely yellow in Autumn. I had never know the details of their “sex” life. I do so appreciate the added information of my favorite tree. I have only one Tamarack hear me. It is soooo tall and strait. It is inspiring. Thanks.

    May 8, 2020 at 10:11 am

  3. Alice

    So interesting to read about. Beautiful little cones. Kind of similar to hemlock cones, I think.

    May 8, 2020 at 10:11 am

  4. Elisa Campbell

    Thanks – very informative.

    I need to go to the place I know of with Tamaracks/larches and look!

    Elisa Campbell


    May 8, 2020 at 12:18 pm

  5. Jon Bouton

    I love following your blog. Thanks! I would have called the tamarack “cones”, “flowers”. Am I missing something about names of coniferous (monocots) vs angiosperms (dicots) ovary and stemen-holdond structures? Besides, I love the idea of evergreens and deciduous trees flowering. 🙂

    May 8, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    • Hi Jon,
      Instead of male and female flowers, conifers are gymnosperns (not angiosperms) and have male and female cones. Both conifers and flowering plants produce seeds, with conifer seeds “naked” and produced on cone scales, while flowering plant seeds are encased in what used to be the ovary and what we call fruit. Hope this helps!

      May 8, 2020 at 2:12 pm

  6. Thanks for the lovely photos that accompany the information–very helpful

    May 8, 2020 at 1:41 pm

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