European Larch: How to recognise it and what it's used for

These amazing conifers lose their needles in winter and produce high-quality wood.

3762Arbre1825%DK high forest Orø-Margrete Forest 4490
Larch €18
Age: 0 to 2 years old
Orø-Margrete Forest
Sjælland, Denmark
4657Arbre18.7525%DK high forest Orø-Margrete 2 Forest 4490
Larch €18.75
Age: 0 to 2 years old
Orø-Margrete 2 Forest
Sjælland, Denmark
4637Arbre18.7525%DK high forest Orø-Margrete 2 Forest 4490
Larch €18.75
Age: 0 to 2 years old
Orø-Margrete 2 Forest
Sjælland, Denmark


In the wild, Larix decidua , European larches can grow 30 to 40 meters tall. Also known as the common larch, they belong to the Pinaceae family. They are one of the few conifers that shed their leaves in winter.

Why does EcoTree plant larches?

While other species have more demanding growth requirements, larches are a pioneer species which grow on poor soil that they help enrich . Hence why EcoTree plants European larches in poor soils of some forests. The larch's good wind resistance makes it an ideal tree in windy regions such as Brittany and Limousin.

Larch - Overview

Larch - Overview

Larix decidua is a distinct varietal from the Larix species and the most common in EcoTree's regions. The French name for the European larch or common larch comes from a word in the Dauphinois language meaning honey. The Dauphiné region in Southeast France is where larches thrive best - so much so that they is also commonly called Pins de Briançon (after an Alpine city of the same name). Their naturally occuring area of distribution is across Briançonnais, Queyras, Ubaye, Dévoluy and Mercantour - the French Alps.

This conifer, a member of the Pinaceae family along with cedars , spruces , pines , and firs , is an exception among its kind. Larches lose their needles which turn yellow, red, and brown in the autumn before dropping. They are the only European conifers to have this quirk.

Dropping their needles helps to form a supportive humus for the seeds of other conifers.

In adulthood, they grow up to 30 to 40 meters. Their bark is greyish, cracked, and very thick on older specimens.

Their needles are somewhat leathery, forming rosettes on short branches or individually along long twigs . They are clustered in tufts composed of 35 to 40 needles along the twigs.

A monoecious species , their catkins bud in late spring. Male catkins can be recognized by their yellow hue. They are small, numerous, and hang down from the branches. They distribute their pollen on the wind and via insects that pollinate the female catkins which are fewer in number, a little larger, bright red in color, and face the sky.

The cones are brown ovoids measuring 3 to 4 cm. Their fine, pointed scales protect the brown, shiny, winged seeds which they release at the end of summer. They remain attached to the branches for a long time. It is not unusual to see both cones from the current year and the previous year at the same time. Squirrels, woodpeckers, and crossbills help spread them.

A slow growing tree, larches takes 20 to 30 years to reach only 3 or 4 meters. Their trunk is conical and narrow and sprouts drooping branches, like those of the spruce.

They can live for 600 years.
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Larch - Species requirements

This pioneer species grows in poor soil that it helps to enrich . Its largest natural populations are in Central Europe. In the Alps, they grow at a latitude of 1,400 to 2,400 meters.

In their natural state, on the south-facing slopes (the sunny side), they are found below 1,400 meters in the company of Scots pines and on the north-facing slopes they accompany Swiss pines and spruces above 2,000 meters. They are also found among rowans and field maples. This mountain species has been intentionally planted on plains to take advantage of its wood and its ability to enrich poor soils. Larches are very cold resistant and can acclimatize to heavy or moderate rainfalls. However, they don't tolerate compact or hydromorphic soils which can cause larch canker. They can't bare droughts, but survive high temperature variations (a 50° difference in the same day) in their natural mountain range.
Their deep and highly developed root system burrows firmly into the ground, meaning it needs deep soil to be able to settle there completely.

This gives larches exceptional wind resistance, so much so that windfall is hardly a concern to them.

The Larch's Wood

This tree is sometimes called the oak of the mountain because of the exceptional quality of wood it produces. Worth the long wait, larches are the most durable and solid of the coniferous woods.
Rot-proof, they are used for the design of boats, framing, roof shingles, and railway ties.
Larches also have good medicinal properties in their needles. Briançon manna, a product that seeps from larch needles, is used to increase white blood cell count and the tree's resin tree, Venetian turpentine, has an antiseptic quality.

Symbolism of the Larch

Larches are elegant trees in any season. They symbolize maternal love because they commonly offer shelter to squirrels and birds. Thanks to their impermeable bark, owls enjoy calling larches home.

The European larch is therefore an original gift for Mother's Day : a gift that gets prettier every year! It's an original and eco-friendly Mother's Day gift idea.

What if, this year, you gave her a "bouquet of trees" in a beautiful forest?