Larix decidua

29 Nov

Larix decidua (12/11/2011, Kew, London)

Larix decidua (12/11/2011, Kew, London)

Position: Full Sun 

Flowering period: Winter to Spring

Soil: Moist, well-drained

Eventual Height: 40m 

Eventual Spread: 12m

Hardiness: 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a

Family: Pinaceae

Larix decidua is a fast growing, large, deciduous, coniferous tree with a conical, pendulous growth habit. Its light green leaves are needle like and up to 4cm long. Its leaves are bright green when they appear in spring and turn yellow before they fall in the autumn. Its leaves are more delicate than most other conifers and have a waxy coating. Its branches are level to ascending, with the side branches often being slim, pendulous and flexible. Its trunk may achieve a diameter of up to 1m. This tree is monoecious with the female flowers being red and the male being yellow. The male flowers produce huge amounts of pollen in early spring. Its female cones are erect, ovoid to conical, up to 6cm long, with 30 – 70 erect or slightly incurved seed scales. They appear green, maturing to brown and opening to release seeds 4 – 6 months after pollination. Old cones often remain on the tree.

Larix decidua cone (12/11/2011, Kew, London)

Larix decidua cone (12/11/2011, Kew, London)

Larix decidua, commonly known as the European Larch, is native to the mountains of Central Europe. It was introduced into the UK in the 17th century as an ornamental tree.  The wood of the tree is notably flexible and has been cultivated since 1620 for boat building. This tree was classified by English horticulturist Philip Miller in the early 18th Century. Larix decidua is considered to be an invasive species in New Zealand.

The etymological root of the binomial name Larix is derived from the old Latin name for ‘Larch’. Decidua is derived from the Latin meaning ‘deciduous’. 

The landscape architect may find Larix decidua useful for an ornamental specimen tree for park planting. It is also a suitable species for inclusion in a woodland planting scheme.  It will not grow in shade.

Larix decidua is ecologically valuable as  its seeds provides food for some birds. The European larch needles are the only known food for caterpillars of the Case Bearer Moth. Its cone scales are food for the caterpillars of the Tortix Moth.

Larix decidua Seed Cone (29/03/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Larix decidua Seed Cone (29/03/2015, Kew Gardens, London)

Larix decidua  has been awarded the prestigious Royal Horticultural Societies annual Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

Larix decidua prefers well drained, moist soils. It will tolerate most soil pH levels. It will not tolerate waterlogged or chalky soils.

Larix decidua requires little maintenance.

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