The European or common larch (Larix decidua) is native to the mountainous areas of Northern and central Europe as well as Poland and Russia. Although it looks like an evergreen in the summer with a pyramidal shape and drooping branchlets, it soft-green clustered needles turn golden yellow in the fall and then drop. The tree has brown small cones . The bark of the larch is furrowed and reddish brown. L. decidua has longer more densely clustered needles and larger, more numerous cones than L. laricina (Tamarack, American Larch). The European Larch was introduced to Britain somewhat before 1620.
Common name: European larch, Common Larch
Scientific Name (order and family): Larix decidua Miller (Pinaceae, Pinales)
Species Origin: Europe
New Jersey Status: USDA Introduced
Habit: 40 – 130’ tall x 50’ wide; bole 2’ diameter., narrow conical shape. The twigs are pendulous, especially low down on old trees.
Habitat: Zones 2 – 6. Like all larches this is a light-demanding tree so the lower branches are soon suppresed and die, becoming brittle and breaking off.
Trunk/Stem: Bark smooth gray becoming red-brown fissured and scaly.
Leaves: Deciduous, needle-like. Needles soft to 1 ½” long, singly situated on long spur twigs (very short side branchlets) in dense whorls (10 – 60 needles); on cross-section the needles are edged. Needles bright green turning yellow in autumn and shedding. Leaves grow in dense rosettes on side shoots while appearing singly on main branches.
Flowers: Monoecious. Male flowers yellow drooping; female flowers purple-pink to red, upright in separate clusters on the same shoot (female upright, male below). Cones appear before the leaves in spring.
Fruits and seeds: Larch cones grow on very short spur twigs on year old branchlets and are concentrated in the upper part of the tree. An upright egg-shaped brown cone 1 ½” long. The three-pronged bracts are mostly not visible outside of the scales. Empty cones stay on the tree for several seasons., often until the branch itself falls off.