Comparing tamarack branches to those of an adjacent green conifer, I noticed the tamarack's distinct needle bunches. On a sturdy and fortunate tree, annual shedding and regrowth may cycle for hundreds of years. On the Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks site, retired Livingston biology teacher Lori Micken chronicles ages of some of these stately trees: "Years ago I felled a larch that had died in a fire that raged through
the Swan Valley some time in the early 1900s. I counted 350 rings, putting
the tree’s origins back to the time of the Jamestown Settlement in
Virginia. The fire-scarred behemoths still living in the Swan Valley must
now be nearly 450 years old. Ancient tamaracks estimated at more than 900
years old have been reported in some parts of Washington."
I've long been in awe of the tamarack's golden beauty - ever since my juniour high earth science teacher explained how the needles of these bona fide conifers turn yellow in the fall and then drop off, to regrow in the spring. No such a magical tree existed on Alberta's rolling farmland! In several sections of the trail up University Peak, our footsteps quieted as we walked the cushy carpet dusted with seeming gold-strewn magic.