European larch

Mélèze d'Europe

Larix decidua P. MillerPinaceae (pine family)

Origin: Europe


European larch is a large deciduous conifer, with a conical crown and horizontal branches that turn up at the tips.

Read more about Tree, Bark, Twigs


Leaves are deciduous needles grouped in bundles of 30 or more.

Read more about Leaves

Pollen cones

Pollen cones are yellow or reddish brown and hang downward on the branch.

Read more about Pollen cones

Seed cones

Seed cones are woody when mature and stand erect on the branch.

Read more about Seed cones


European larch is a large deciduous conifer, up to 30 m (98') high and 1 m (39") in diameter, with a conical crown.

Horizontal branches turn up at the tips while branchlets hang down.

Bark is grey and scaly on young trees. On older trees, the bark is brown, with deep fissures that expose reddish-brown inner bark.

Twigs are yellowish, with small, rounded, light brown, slightly sticky buds.

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Leaves are needles 2-5 cm (3/4" - 2") long that are borne in bundles of 30 or more.

The bundles spiral around the twig with spaces in between them.

In the fall, needles turn orange-yellow and drop from the tree.

Because they are deciduous conifers, larch trees are bare In the winter..

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Pollen cones

Pollen cones are nearly spherical, about 4 - 6 mm (less than 1/4") in diameter.

The yellowish pollen cones are borne with the immature red seed cones in the spring. They hang down from the branch while the seed cones stand erect.

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Seed cones

Seed cones stand erect on the branch. The immature cones are red. .

As they mature, the seed cones turn from red to green. Each seed cone is composed of 35 - 50 overlapping rounded scales.

Mature seed cones are brown, 2 - 4 cm (3/4" - 1 1/2") long. The scales open to release the seeds.

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Distribution and habitat

European larch is native to northern Europe, and mountainous regions of central Europe, from southeastern France to Austria. It was introduced to North America during colonial times.

European larch is capable of growing at high altitude. Because logging is uncommon on high mountains, some trees growing on them have been estimated to be around 1,000 years old.

Derivation of names

The genus name, Larix, comes from the Celtic word lar, meaning fat, in reference to the tree's oily wood. The species name decidua, means deciduous, from the Latin decidere, meaning to fall, a reference to the leaves.

Deciduous conifers

While the majority of conifers are evergreen, larches are among those that are deciduous, dropping their needles every year. Other deciduous conifers include dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), which is native to Asia, and tamarack (Larix laricina), a sister species which is native to North America. Tamarack can be distingished from European larch by its seed cones which are half the size, up to 1.7 cm (1/2"). European larch is more commonly seen as a cultivated tree.

Commercial use

European larch is an important timber tree and a source of turpentine in Europe. The wood of European larch is fairly durable and has been used in the production of charcoal, railway ties, utility poles, and shipbuilding. Extracts from European larch bark have been used to tan leather.

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European larch IN TORONTO

European larch's place in Toronto's urban forest

European larch is sometimes planted in city parks. It is similar in appearance to the native tamarack, which is found in some Toronto ravines. However, European larch is much better adapted to urban conditions. Like tamarack, its needles provide a colourful fall display before they are shed for the winter.

European larch is mostly suited to larger sites and is not shade tolerant. It requires moist, well-drained, deep soil.

Pests and diseases: European larch may be affected by various cankers, which appear on the outer bark and can cause defoliation. Several insect pests, including the larch case-bearer and the Japanes beetle feed on the needles; early detection and spraying may elimate some of them.

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WHERE CAN I SEE European larch?

Links to maps at Canadian Tree Tours:

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