Thursday, January 2, 2020

Conifers that tolerate very wet feet

I have been on a scavenger hunt for inexpensive, bare-root seedlings to plant in a bog.

The website of my go-to source, Ripley County Nursery, has been down. Ripley County, Missouri was flooded this spring and RCN may be temporarily shuttered.

The Tamarack are the pyramidal trees in the front. They drop their needles in the fall.

My contact at the Eaton County Conservation District tells me that they will be offering Tamarack (Larix laricina). I have fifty of these penciled into my shopping list.

Black spruce often has a bedraggled, dreary look. The older trees sometimes get the lolly-pop look where the top branches form a thick mass.
There is also a possibility that they will offer Black Spruce (Picea mariana). I have fifty penciled on my shopping list.

Range map for Black Spruce. Range for Tamarack is similar
Both of these species are exceptionally cold hardy and have ranges that kiss the Arctic Circle. Michigan is near the southern limit for both species.

Neither species is considered a good timber tree. They are too small and grow too slowly. The wood of the Tamarack is exceptionally rot resistant and burns like kerosene due to the high pitch content.

Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) IS a good timber tree. Bald Cypress grows very well in my part of Michigan but is not considered a native. Consequently, it is not available through Michigan Soil Conservation Districts. It is available in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri at VERY attractive prices but they require that the seedlings be planted in their respective states. Seedlings are available in commerce but at 3X the cost from Soil Conservation Districts.

Research indicates that hardwood cuttings taken from juvenile Bald Cypress trees will root with over 50% success rate. Mature ones have a rooting rate around 10%. They demand very damp rooting media. I am keeping my eyes on local Bald Cypress trees looking for ice damaged trees so I can scoop up some branches but will probably end up buying 100 commercially available Bald Cypress seedlings.

Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) is a decent timber tree. It is not very fast growing but it does attain large size. Like the Tamarack and Bald Cypress, the wood is very rot resistant. Much of the Atlantic White Cedar's northern range has succumbed to development and there are groups dedicated to preserving both the species and its habitat. It is not a Michigan native. Seedlings are available in commerce but at 12X the cost of seedlings from the Soil Conservation District. I am contemplating buying five of these but would buy ten or twenty if the price was lower.

The native range of the Atlantic White Cedar stretches from Maine to Mississippi.

Measuring the extreme north-south distance of these four species, they range from a latitude of 69 for the Black Spruce to 26 for the extreme southern limit of Bald Cypress. That is a distance of almost 3000 miles.


  1. While living in Spokane, Wash, I routinely cut Tamarack in the forest North of Spokane and over by the Idaho border. You could only cut it in late spring to be sure it was dead. You right you could not fill up a stove with it, you would have a out of control blast furnace.

  2. I was down in the lower peninsula of Michigan in the early spring about ten years ago and on my way home on M-123 between Moran and Trout Lake I saw a lot of knee-high Tamarack growing in a swampy stretch under a power line. I wanted some for a couple places on my farm on the Keweenaw so I stopped and pulled up 10 of them by the roots and planted them the next day. They all lived and are now fine, tall trees. I was surprised at how well they have done.


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