Spotlight on Tamarack - Quebec Wood Export Bureau

Quebec Wood Export Bureau members are softwood specialists in North America. They work with multiple species and have developed unique expertise in cutting and transforming softwoods.

Tamarack is a softwood species that has proven its versatility over the years. Not only can you find it pretty much everywhere in the province, but it is also a wood of great quality.

This is the second in a series of short articles highlighting the multiple usages of Eastern Canadian softwood species.

What is Tamarack?

Larix laricina, also known as Tamarack or Eastern Larch and in the French-speaking regions of Canada as mélèze laricin, is one of some ten species globally in the genus Larix. Larix is the only genus among softwoods that shed their leaves (needles) in the winter.

This tree is a medium-size boreal coniferous and deciduous tree reaching 10–20 m (33–66 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 60 cm (24 in) in diameter. Tamaracks and larches (Larix species) are deciduous conifers. The bark is tight, flaky, and pink, but under the flaking bark, it can appear reddish. The leaves are needle-like, 2–3 cm (34–1 14 in) short, light blue-green, turning bright yellow before they fall in the autumn, leaving the pale pinkish-brown shoots bare until the next spring. The needles are produced spirally on long shoots and in dense clusters on long woody spur shoots.

This tree is found in cold and humid environments where it grows in pure or mixed stands. It can be seen all across the Quebec region. In mixed stands, black spruce is usually tamarack’s most common associate.

Photo: Tamarack (photo NRCan)

What specs does Tamarack have?

Tamarack can generate relatively large diameter trunks and its mechanical properties are superior to several other softwood species in Eastern Canada. In general, tamarack wood density is higher than eastern spruces, pines, and fir.

It belongs to the Northern Species group according to the National Lumber Grades Authority (NLGA). However, in tests carried out by FPInnovations, the Modulus of Elasticity of the tamarack at 11 000 MPa (Grade no 1 and no 2) is considerably higher than the average of this species group at 7 000 MPa.

Tamarack has good natural durability; however, preservative treatments are necessary for uses in conditions favorable for decay.

Photo: Tamarack Flooring (Marché du bois)

Principal Usage of Tamarack

The strength properties of the tamarack make it a good species for various structural applications from regular light-frame construction to heavier posts and beams. The full potential of its strength properties is best used in the production of Machine Stress Rated Lumber (MSR).

This species of wood has traditionally been used for decks, bridges and piers, docks, railway ties, barn, and stable floors. Nowadays, the beauty of its grain is coming to its full value when used in interiors as a wall cladding or flooring.

Photo: Tamarack Flooring (Maxi-Forêt)

Innovative usages of Tamarack

Larch Wood Canada Inc. has developed a unique line of cutting boards and countertops out of Tamarack.

Usually, cutting boards of this quality are made of hardwood, but Larch Wood has proven its properties were up to the standards. The bold tamarack end-grain and varied patterns make it a unique and high-quality product.

The company controls the full production process from log to the final product. Sales and distribution is mainly done directly from the company website. The end product is simply amazing, long-lasting, and beautiful.

Photo: End-grain tamarack cutting boards (www.larchwoodcanada.com)

Contact the Quebec Wood Export Bureau to learn more about our products and to find suppliers.

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