Hello dendrologists!
February 14, 2011 3:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to identify a type of tree that I remember from when I lived in upstate NY. It had needles (rather than broad leaves) which were a little longer and much "softer"-- less prickly, anyway-- than most coniferous trees I've seen/felt. Most strikingly, they would turn a gorgeous scarlet in the autumn-- the only non-broadleaf tree I've seen to do so. Has anyone out there seen these beauties?
posted by samac to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
Sounds like some type of larch.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:26 AM on February 14, 2011

Larch is also known as tamarack, and was the first thing I thought of.
posted by vytae at 4:41 AM on February 14, 2011

If it's deciduous conifers you're after, the larch is your best bet.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:56 AM on February 14, 2011

Everything (except for they would turn a gorgeous scarlet in the autumn) screams Tamarack. All the Tamarack I've seen turn yellow, though.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:14 AM on February 14, 2011

Agreed. It sounds like No. 1, The Larch. The Larch. (Of course, all my tree identification knowledge comes from How To Recognize Different Types Of Trees From Quite a Long Way Away.)
posted by The Bellman at 6:51 AM on February 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cypress trees turn reddish orange in autumn and have soft needles as well.

Here's a picture.
posted by Ostara at 7:25 AM on February 14, 2011

Probably a larch as others have said, while they usually turn yellow, not scarlet, the Wikipedia link has a scarlet larch.

(Bald) Cypress trees do turn a nice scarlet. Depending on where in upstate, it could be this if it has bark somewhat like a redwood. Although associated with the south, they can be planted further north of their range. There are a few specimens by Harlem Meer in Central Park and I remember seeing a *huge* one in a park in Albany. I think the summers are too short for the cones to fully develop, but they have no problem tolerating winters, so if it is planted (as in a park) could be bald cypress, but I am betting on larch. Upstate NY is lousy with larch.
posted by xetere at 8:48 AM on February 14, 2011

Wait, did they lose most or all of the needles in the winter (I conflated "changing colors in autumn" with "losing leaves in autumn")? If yes, they were probably Tamaracks. If not, I'd go with Ostara's answer.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:49 AM on February 14, 2011

Sounds like a Dawn Redwood to me.
posted by gueneverey at 3:36 PM on February 14, 2011

Hmm. I can't remember what happens to their needles in the winter, unfortunately. Also, I should have specified that I was living on campus at Vassar College, which is technically an arboretum- so they may indeed have been bald cypress or something else not native to NY.

I've been looking at Google Images' pics of all these suggestions, but haven't seen very many cypress or larch trees that were the red color I remember. I'm thinking they might indeed have been dawn redwoods, as gueneverey suggests, though I'm basing this on just a couple distant photos in the Google search results.
posted by samac at 6:37 AM on February 15, 2011

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