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European Larch Larix decidua


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European Larch
credit: MPF/CCSA

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Family: Pinaceae, Pine view all from this family

Description Medium to large deciduous coniferous tree. Crown conic, becoming broad with age; main branches level to upswept, side branches pendulous. Bark gray to brown, thick and furrowed. Shoots dimorphic, growth divided into long shoots (typically 10-50 cm.) bearing several buds, and short shoots only 1-2 mm. long with single bud. Needles, light green, 2-4 cm. long, turning bright yellow, leaving the pale yellow-buff shoots bare until the next spring.
Cones erect, ovoid-conic, 2-6 cm. long, with 30-70 erect or slightly incurved (not reflexed) seed scales. Cones green flushed red when immature, turning brown and opening to release the seeds when mature, 4–6 months after pollination. Old cones remain on the tree for many years, turning dull grey-black.

Dimensions Height: 21 m. (70 ft.)
Diameter: 0.6 m. (2 ft.).

Habitat Mountains, Cities, suburbs & towns, Watersides (fresh).

Range Plains, Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Eastern Canada.

Discussion The wood is tough and durable, flexible in thin strips, particularly valued for yacht building; wood used for this must be free of knots, and can only be obtained from old trees that were pruned when young to remove side branches. Small larch poles are widely used for rustic fencing.
Important food for some birds, notably Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Citril Finch, while the buds and immature cones are eaten by Capercaillie.