Larches

European Larch Japanese Larch Hybrid Larch European Larch

What are they?

Larches are a surprise to some people since they are deciduous conifers, something that feels like a contradiction in terms as conifers are generally considered to be evergreen by their very nature! These trees are not native to the UK but are widely planted and generally well known. The trees may grow to around 40m in height and typically have straight, upright trunks and graceful, often pendulous branches with many, wiry, flexible young branchlets. The leaves appear in clusters from small nodules that develop along the branches and the trees produce large quantities of small cones. The leaves turn rich yellow in the autumn before dropping.

Where are they found?

Sometimes planted for ornament, but most often seen in forestry or shelterbelt plantings with other conifers.

Identification

The larches can all appear rather similar and are most easily told apart by the appearance of their cones. Luckily the cones are produced in great quantity and can usually be found on the tree on low branches, or scattered on the ground beneath the tree.



European Larch      Larix decidua

Introduced from mainland Europe. Widespread as a tree of forestry and shelterbelts and occasionally found regenerating from seed. Needles bright green when young, becoming mid green, with paler, greenish stripes on the underside. Mature cones typically 2-3.5cm long with the scales usually tightly pressed to each other and not curling back at the tips.

European Larch European Larch European Larch European Larch
Habit
Leaves
Flowers
Male flowers
European Larch European Larch European Larch European Larch
Female flowers
Cone
Winter twig
Bark


Japanese Larch      Larix kaempferi

Introduced from Japan. Widespread as a tree of forestry and shelterbelts but much less common than European Larch. Needles blue-green, with whitish stripes on the underside. Mature cones typically 1.5-3.5cm long, broader relative to height than those of European Larch and with the scales curling back at the tips, rather like the style of a garden rose.

Japanese Larch Japanese Larch Japanese Larch Japanese Larch
Habit
Leaves
Leaves
Female flowers
Japanese Larch Japanese Larch Japanese Larch Japanese Larch
Female flowers
Cone
Winter twig
Bark


Hybrid Larch      Larix x marschlinsii

A hybrid between European and Japanese Larches. Widespread as a tree of forestry and shelterbelts. Needles mid green, with paler, greenish stripes on the underside but often somewhat intermediate between the parents, with a hint of bluish colour about them. Mature cones variable, but typically having the relatively longer, narrower shape of European Larch, coupled with the slightly recurved scale tips inherited from Japanese Larch. Plants appear to be fertile so back-crossing with one of the parents probably accounts for at least some of the variation found in self-sown plants.

Hybrid Larch Hybrid Larch Hybrid Larch
Habit
Male flowers
Female flowers
Hybrid Larch Hybrid Larch Hybrid Larch Hybrid Larch
Cone
Cone
Winter twig
Bark