Larch Trees: What Should You Know

The larch tree is a conifer growing in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Scientists initially split the genus into two groups of species. Eventually, after more intense genetic study, scientists now separate the Larch genus into three groups. Many of the larch species are tall trees with widespread branches. Additionally, the larch is prone to a fungal disease that is quickly spreading. The wood from a larch is waterproof and durable. It is often used to build high quality luxury items like yachts. Moreover, they are fast-growing trees that are easy to grow in the right climate. They are unique compared to most conifers because their needles will yellow and fall off in autumn. Overall, these trees tolerate cold climates well and thrive in mountainous areas.

So how many kinds of larch trees are there?

Scientists classify eleven species of trees as larch. Furthermore, the genus classifying all these species is the Latrix genus. The Latrix genus is part of the Pinaceae family with the other pine trees. The eleven species are further divided into three groups based primarily on natural location. The three groups are the North American species, the Northern Eurasian species (short bracts), and the Southern Eurasian species (long bracts).

A bract is a part of a plant that may resemble a leaf or a petal. Structurally, a bract is most similar to a leaf, but it usually is slightly different from the plant's leaves.

Northern Eurasian Group (Short Bracts)

  • European Larch
  • Siberian Larch
  • Dahurian Larch
  • Japanese Larch
  • Unnamed Larch

Southern Eurasian Group (Long Bracts)

  • Chinese Larch
  • Masters’ Larch
  • Himalayan Larch

North American Group

  • Tamarack (American) Larch
  • Subalpine Larch
  • Western Larch

The Northern and Southern Eurasian species grow differently because of their climatic needs. The bracts and cones develop to best help the tree thrive. To put it differently, the Eurasian species are separated based on their developmental features.

The pictures seen here show the difference between the two groups which is primarily the length of the bract.

Japanese-Larch-–-Short-Bract

Japanese-Larch-–-Short-Bract

Chinese-Larch-–-Long-Bract.

Chinese-Larch-–-Long-Bract.

How large do larch trees grow?

Larch species vary in size, but overall, are tall pine trees. The smaller species grow to 40 feet in height and the taller species grows to 100 feet in height. Likewise, the spread of the larch ranges from 20 to 30 feet. According to the University of Vermont, the North American species are smaller compared to their Eurasian relations. For the most part, they are fast-growing trees, some growing to 8 feet in height by their tenth birthday.

What does a larch tree look like?

Upon first sight of a larch, it will look like a typical evergreen tree. The larch grows in the pyramidal shape, common to the Pinaceae family. At the same time, the canopy is widespread, with drooping lower branches and stiffer middle branches.

Unlike most conifers, larches are deciduous and lose their needles in the fall. When the colder weather approaches, the needles turn from a dark green to yellow. Overall, the needles are soft and slender.

Larch trees grow both male and female cones. Moreover, the female cones display beautiful colors. The colors vary by species, but the range of colors is wide from orange, red, purple, and green. The cones turn brown when they reach maturity. In contrast, the male cones are an off-white and much smaller than the female cones.

Where can I find a larch tree?

As shown above, we divide larch trees into three groups, primarily based on location. The North American larch grow in the Northern parts of the hemisphere. Larch thrive in mountainous areas. To begin with, you will find larch prevalent in the Rocky Mountains. Also, they grow in Alaska, Canada, and the Northern continental United States.

The mountainous areas of Europe and Asia boast larch. The Himalayans and Alps can claim larch in their forests. As for Asia, you will find larch trees growing in Siberia, China, and Japan.

A larch tree is an excellent choice for a backyard or garden if you give enough room for it to thrive. It is a common staple in both Europe and North America.

How long can a larch tree live?

Larch do not live long lives compared to some other species out there. Most larch trees can thrive well for 250 years. Accordingly, the quick growth rate of the larch results in a long age of maturity. The oldest larch in Europe grows in Italy and is a cluster of four larch trees. In 1930, one tree fell, and the rings were counted. Scientists estimated the tree to be 2000 years old. Scientists now know that the other three still standing are closer to 850 years old.

Can I grow a larch tree?

Larch trees are a beautiful addition to any backyard, especially in autumn. However, they are particular about their climate and soil. A larch tree will not thrive in an area with a hot summer. Also, a moist soil is a must. If given the environment they yearn for, larch trees are easy to grow.

It is much easier to grow a larch tree from a sapling. Once planted, your sapling will demand at least 6 hours of sun a day. Drought is hard on larch trees and will probably kill them. Consistent rain and a moist soil will help your larch tree reach its full potential.

Overall, larch trees can survive well in cooler climates and, because of its deciduous nature, it is even hardier in winter compared to most pine trees.

If you choose to plant a larch tree in your yard, ensure you give it ample space to spread and grow. It will provide ample shade and a beautiful addition of color to your autumn spread.

You must be wary that larch trees are prone to a fungus that can do significant damage, weaking the specimen. It spreads easily and after 100 years, variations of it are found on trees across the world.

It is time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • The oldest larch tree is in Alberta, Canada. It is estimated at 2000 years old.
  • Larch trees can grow up to 18 inches a year in their youth.
  • Larch trees are deciduous conifers..

What are some uses for larch trees?

Across the world and across time, we can use larch trees in many ways. Humans have found uses for larch trees for centuries.

Natural Uses

Medicinal producers use extracts from North American larch to make medicines for the common cold, ear infections and the flu. The larch gum is rich in arabinogalactans. Scientists use the arabin0galactans in many medicines. It is an excellent source of fiber and can even be used as a sweetener.

The extract from European larch treats rheumatism, asthma, and diarrhea. There are some that think it can even treat mood swings and ADHD.

Additionally, we have traditionally used the bark to treat rashes and joint issues.

When necessary, the shoots that grow in the spring can be boiled and consumed. They are highly nutritious. Moreover, they are an excellent source of fiber and probiotic, which can help with digestive issues.

Artistic Uses

The unique beauty of the larch in the fall places it securely in many beautiful pieces of artwork. Many people use it to add color to their own garden. Many cultures believe the larch symbolizes maternal love. It creates shelter for birds and squirrels alike, especially owls.

Larix the Larch Tree by Jo Hoeflich and Stephanie Campbell is an excellent exploration of science and spirit. A work of fiction, this book investigates the beauty of the forest and the unique features of the larch tree.

Residential/Commercial Uses

Builders seek the lumber from the larch mostly because of its supply. Larch grow quickly and produce a lot of lumber. The beauty of the wood makes it excellent for luxury items and finished looks. All things considered, boat designers seek larch wood for yachts and other boats. It is hardy and decently rot resistant, though it is not rated for ground contact due to long-term rotting.

Larch wood is high density and still used in many outdoor applications, like siding, sheds, fencing, and gazebos. Additionally, wooden roof shingles are still made from larch wood. It is also not uncommon for coffins to be made from larch wood.

Most larch lumber will warp. One exception to the rot issues of larch is the lumber from the Siberian Larch. It is one of the hardest wearing softwoods out there today. It is excellent for decking and outdoor applications.

Wrap Up

Larch are a common conifer found in the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere. The lumber is highly sought after for luxury boats and finishing applications. Also, it has larger and sturdier applications like fencing and roof shingles. Growing a larch is easy if you added it to your backyard. It will change to a striking yellow in the fall and lose its needles until spring. Overall, these trees grow quickly and will grow tall and wide. Ample space is needed with full sun for them to reach their full potential. Be wary of fungus that can afflict your larch. The eleven species vary in size but spread from Alaska to China, defined most by the loss of their needles in the fall. If you ensure significant sunlight and a moist soil, this tree will make a wonderful addition to your scenic backyard.

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