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Fall colors in evergreen country?

Tall and symmetrical, with a coniferous nobility complementing its pine and fir neighbors, the Western larch (Larix occidentalis) is--for most of the year--a stately and dignified citizen of intermountain forests from southeastern Alaska to western Montana. But come October, something strange (at least for a conifer) happens. While pine and fir face the approaching winter in somber cloaks of green, the larch anticipates the season with needles that blaze to a glory of yellows and golds before sprinkling to the forest floor. This behavior is common in broad-leafed trees such as aspen and black oak, but a deciduous conifer is almost a contradiction in terms. In fact, only one other native North American conifer, the bald cypress, sheds its needles, but that Southeastern swamp dweller does so without the benefit of the Western larch's visual pyrotechnics. Some of the larch's best displays are in the Bitterroot Range, just south of Missoula, Montana, where this photo was taken.
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Title Annotation:Window on the West
Article Type:Illustration
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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