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LARIX decidua

Image of Larix decidua

Mark Kane

Family

Pinaceae

Botanical Name

LARIX decidua

Plant Common Name

European Larch

General Description

Few true conifers lose there needles in winter, but those that do tend to have soft, pliable foliage and a lofty, architectural grace. The European larch is no exception. When young, it has a dense, pyramidal form but reaches huge heights and tends to develop drooping, contorted branches when mature. This valuable timber tree naturally exists in the mountains of Europe, particularly the Alps and Carpathians, and is very long-lived. The oldest recorded specimen is believed to have survived for 986 years, from 988 to 1974.

European larch has short, dense clusters of soft, finely textured, rich green needles that turn yellow in autumn and drop away in time for winter. Its strong trunk and branches are covered with smooth, scaly, lightly ridged, grayish tan bark with winter appeal. This true conifer forms both male and female cones early in the season. The male cones are small, round and yellow, while the female cones are more cylindrical and red, pink, yellow or green. The flowering cones are not showy from afar but are peculiar and interesting when viewed up close. The fertilized female cones turn purple and then dry to a woody brown color as they age.

Like most alpines, European large tends to thrive most where temperatures do not become too hot and humid. It requires full sun and prefers slightly acid to neutral soil with good drainage. It is quite cold hardy and tolerant of many harsh conditions, including high winds and seasonal drought. It is best planted in stands in large open landscapes or as single specimen trees. Establish this larch where it can grow to its full potential both in size and years.

There are several interesting and desirable cultivars available, including very diminutive dwarf selections. The densely-branched 'Corley' is a dwarf selection that’s perfect for the rockeries or foundations, 'Pendula' has a thick, weeping in habit, and 'Tortuosa' has conspicuously twisting, drooping branches.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    6 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 6

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17

  • Plant Type

    Needled or Scaled Evergreen

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun

  • Height

    70'-98' / 21.3m - 29.9m

  • Width

    35'-45' / 10.7m - 13.7m

  • Bloom Time

    Spring

  • Native To

    Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Western Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Pyramidal

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    None

  • Fruit Color

    Green, Purple, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Yellow, Gold

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Platy

  • Usage

    Alpine, Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes