What makes the Tamarack Tree so special?
Larix laricina, also known as a tamarack or larch, is a deciduous conifer whose soft needles turn golden in the fall, drop from the tree and return each spring. The tamarack cones are tiny, and first-year growth starts as pink, then turns deep red followed by crispy brown by fall. Tamaracks grow slowly and need dry soil conditions to set roots, though they are often found thriving in wetlands. Tamaracks often make hospitable habitats for a great biodiversity of plants and, in turn birds and other animals.
What is a fen?
A fen is a wetland much like a bog, with a deep peat-based material, water and specialized plants. Unlike a bog, however, a fen is groundwater-dependent and the water flows (in this case, to Battle Creek Lake and on to the Mississippi River), making it less acidic than a bog. Floating hummocks (islands within a fen or bog that are not solidly tethered to the shore) can sometimes be observed slowly turning in the wind or by the flowing current. The Tamarack Nature Preserve is considered a "rich fen" as well as being classified as a "tamarack swamp." And even though the word swamp may have a negative connotation, it is a true scientific term that simply means a forested wetland. Think of it as one of nature’s great filtration solutions!
Imagine the Tamarack Nature Preserve 10-12,000 years ago
According to archaeological research, people have inhabited Minnesota for over 12,000 years. When this particular tamarack swamp was formed 10,000-12,000 years ago and the last glaciers in the region were retreating, mastodons, wooly mammoth and saber-tooth cats also roamed the area. Read this interesting historical piece from Minnesota Archaeology to learn more about the first peoples in our area.
Watch out for toxic plants
Just be aware that - as with any wild place - there are plants in the Preserve you'll want to avoid touching. They include poison ivy, poison sumac, wild parsnip, stinging nettles (aka “itchweed”) and poison hemlock. See the individual links of this link to get a visual on them.
What local plants are considered invasive species?
The Tamarack Nature Preserve has its share of unhealthy invasive plant species that choke out important native species and can change the nature of a whole biome. They include purple loosestrife and the narrow-leaved cattail, as opposed to the important native broad-leaved cattail. These are found within the wetland area. The woodland portion of the Preserve is invaded by buckthorn (a fast-spreading understory shrub), common burdock, common tansy, garlic mustard and wild parsnip. We are working with the City of Woodbury and the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District to find the best ways to remove these damaging species while preserving the home of native species that share the same habitat, and some of our group activities are directed to invasive species education and removal.