Forest 36 - European Larch


Larix deciduas    

Cones of Larix decidua. Photo not from the Arboretum European larch flowers. Photo not from the Arboretum

Other common names

Common larch; Gemeine larche (German); Meleze d'Europe (French).

Origin of the species name

Larix is Latin for larch; decidua is Latin referring to all species of larch being deciduous

Family

Pinaceae

Date planted

Planted 2011.

Lifespan

Trees of this species can be very long lived. Several of the larger specimens in Germany are thought to date back to the 18th century.

Larix decidua trees. Photo not from the Arboretum

General description 

This is a medium to large, deciduous, coniferous tree with a crown that is conic when young but becomes broader with age. The leaves are needle-like, light green, 2–4 cm long which turn bright yellow before they fall in the autumn. The mature seed cones are only 3-4 cm long, oblong in shape and are erect on the branches. Height 25m Spread 15m.

Natural distribution and habitat

The species is native to the mountains of central Europe, with disjunct lowland populations in northern Poland and southern Lithuania. At high elevations it occurs in conifer forests and is occasionally found in pure stands. At its lowest elevations it may be found with deciduous forest. It only grows on well-drained soils.

Conservation status

It is not classified as a threatened species.

Planting pattern

Planted in curved rows.

Uses

The wood is tough and durable and was widely used for railway sleepers. It is also flexible in thin strips, and is particularly valued for boat building. Small larch poles are widely used for rustic fencing. Trees with a curved base were used to make the traditional 'alphorns'. The European larch is also a popular species used for bonsai.

Further reading

Farjon, A (2010) A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Brill.