Also called ‘Common Larch’, it is on of the few deciduous conifers to shed its needles in autumn and grow new fresh green foliage the following spring. It is a tall tree which can grow up to 45m (148ft), with a straight trunk from which graceful side branches grow which makes it look spire-like. The bark is rough and greyish brown, becoming fissured with age. The needles form small tight bunches of 30-40 each, each needle up to 3cm long. The light green foliage shows in April, gradually darkening through summer and then turns golden-brown in the autumn before falling in October. The male flowers are in small yellow clusters which produce masses of pollen in the spring. The female cones are bright red in spring and are called ‘larch roses’. In maturity the cones harden and become egg-shaped and woody, green to begin with then turning brown in autumn. They are about 4cm long. I can take up to several years for all the seeds to be released, and they are equipped with a triangular wing which aids them to be blown by the wind some distance from the parent tree. European Larch can live for up to 600 years.
Planted for timber use in plantations, shelterbelts or as an ornamental in parks and gardens. Also widespread in forests. A very hardy tree and can tolerate harsh winter conditions, but needs plenty of water, so it does particularly well in Britain. Native to the mountains of central Europe, the Alps and Carpathian Mountains, and introduced to Britain in the 17th century. Common and widespread throughout. Rarely naturalised.
Larch is fast-growing and makes a very tough and resilient timber for use outdoors, and it has been used extensively in construction work, mining, and in shipbuilding.
Photographs of European Larch (Larix decidua), taken October 2012 and September 2013, local wood, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012 & 2013. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.