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  • Writer's pictureWes Johns

Our area's most fire resilient trees

Did you know that the western larch is considered the most fire resistant tree in its range and the ponderosa pine is a close second?

The western larch (also known as the western tamarack) is considered the most fire-resistant tree in its range. In fact, fire is downright important to its regeneration! Fire is an important part of western larch's ecology; without fire or other stand replacing disturbance, it will not regenerate successfully and will eventually be replaced by more shade-tolerant species. Here are some of the ways it survives fire:

  • Its short needles are more fire resistant than other pine types due to their short length and that they are only on the tree for 5-6 months so retain more water, making them less flammable. These short needles also minimize the amount of dead needle (fuel) at the base of their trees.

  • It quickly re-seeds after a fire, giving it a competitive edge on other plants trying to establish themselves.

  • The ponderosa pine and western larch both have thick bark that protects their cambium (living) layer from heat. They both also shed their lower branches as they mature, making fire less likely to reach their crown (top part of tree with needles and branches) via the ladder effect of lower branches.

They're one of my favorite trees, especially with their beautiful yellow color, and the fact that they are a deciduous conifer tree is really interesting to me. They're tough, yet provide a beautiful accent to the ponderosa pine green in the mountains during the fall.

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