Larix decidua Mill.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

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'Larix decidua' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-07-14.


Common Names

  • Common or European Larch


  • Larix europaea DC.


Protruding; pushed out.
midveinCentral and principal vein in a leaf.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Larix decidua' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online ( Accessed 2024-07-14.

A tree reaching 100 to 140 ft in height in this country, with an erect, tapering trunk, 2 to 5 ft thick, clothed with fissured, scaling bark; branchlets pale yellowish grey, not downy. Leaves light green, 34 to 112 in. long, linear, with the midrib raised beneath, and with two to four lines of stomata at each side of it. Female flowers red, 12 in. long, egg-shaped. Cones reddish when young, 1 to 112 in. long, 34 to 1 in. wide at the base, tapering slightly towards the top; scales rounded, downy at the base outside, bracts slightly exserted.

The main home of the common larch lies in the mountains of central Europe from S.E. France through the main chain of the Alps eastward to the neighbourhood of Vienna. In this region it forms beautiful forests, often in association with Pinus cembra, wherever the climate is ‘continental’ enough to give it the bright summers and moderate rainfall that it demands. In the more ‘oceanic’ parts of the Alps it is displaced by spruce. Beyond the Danube, the larch, as a wild tree, occurs only in a few localities in the mountains between Czechoslovakia and Poland, but var. polonica (see below) carries the distribution of the species into the hills of southern and central Poland and a few probably wild stands occur in the Carpathians of Rumania. The wild races most valued by foresters as a source of seed come from these isolated outposts, notably the Sudetan larch from the mountains around Jesenice and Vrbno in Czechoslovakia (about 120 miles east of Prague) and the Tatra larch, which occurs farther east in the High and Low Tatras.

The common larch was introduced early in the 17th century, but first brought into notice as a forest tree in the British Isles by the third and fourth Dukes of Atholl, 100 to 150 years later. Two of the oldest in the British Isles are standing near the old cathedral at Dunkeld, planted there in 1738.

As a garden tree the larch has much to recommend it; in habit it is singularly beautiful when grown as an isolated specimen, the horizontal or upwardly curved branches being furnished with pendulous branchlets. It attains to an imposing height; its trunk is handsomely coloured, and no tree exceeds it in the beauty and soft tenderness of the young green foliage.

The common larch is not suitable for exposed positions, nor for low-lying sites subject to spring frost. It grows best in deep, moist soils and does not thrive on very chalky nor on peaty soils. Once the most widely planted of all exotic conifers, it is now little used in afforestation, partly because it is unsuited to many of the areas now being converted to forest, partly because it is less productive than some other exotic conifers even in the soils and situations most favourable to it. The total area devoted to common larch in 1965 was 129,000 acres, against 875,000 acres under spruce and 233,000 acres under Japanese larch. It remains a useful tree for small-scale planting on estates and the bulk of its acreage is privately owned. The chief disease of this species is larch canker, but research has shown that the plantations most ravaged by this disease in the earlier decades of this century were raised from seed procured from high elevations in the Alps. Trees of Sudetan and Tatran provenance are less subject to it, and some of the old plantations in Scotland are held to be the equal of the wild Carpathian stands as a source of seed for forestry.

The following is no more than a short selection of the outstanding European larches growing in the British Isles: Dunkeld Cathedral, Perths., pl. 1738, 105 × 1634 ft (1970); Lee Park, Lanarks., pl. 1685, 80 × 13 ft (1971); Monzie Castle, Perths., pl. 1738, 111 × 1812 ft (1962); Gordon Castle, Moray, 98 × 1714 ft (1970); Dawyck, Peebl., pl. 1725, 70 × 1312 ft (1966); Ardvorlich, Perths., pl. 1789, 139 × 834 ft (1961); Ombersley Court, Worcs., 72 × 1734 ft (1964); Parkhatch, Dunsfold, Surrey, pl. 1855, 142 × 912 ft (1970).

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

specimens: Parkhatch, Dunsfold, Surrey, pl. 1855, 148 × 10 ft (1982); Nonsuch House, Bromham, Wilts., 85 × 16 ft (1979); Tottenham House, Wilts., 85 × 16 ft (1984); Linley Hall, Shrops., 135 × 12 ft (1984); Downton House, Powys, 65 × 1514 ft (1978); Lee Park, Lanarks., the largest tree (from a ring count pl. c. 1740) has been blown down; Raehills, Dumfr., 111 × 1414 ft (1984); Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfr., 125 × 1434 ft (1984); Elioch, Dumfr., 72 × 1334 ft (1984); Glenlee Park, Kirkcud., 150 × 934 ft (1984); Dawyck, Peebl., 98 × 1414 ft (1982); Kailzie House, Peebl., pl. 1725, 100 × 1314 ft (1982); Dunkeld Cathedral, Perth, 105 × 1714 ft (1981); Dunkeld House, Perth, 82 × 1614 ft at 6 ft (1985); Keir House, Perths., 95 × 1514 ft (1985); Monzie Castle, Perths., 110 × 1912 ft (meas. J. Paterson, 1982); Ardvorlich, Perths., 138 × 13 ft and 115 × 1314 ft (1981); Blair Castle, Perths., pl. 1738, 88 × 1412 ft (1983) and 143 × 1334 ft (1978); Monymusk, Aberd., 102 × 1434 ft (1981); Kinlock House, Angus, pl. 1738, 78 × 1512 ft (1981); Gordon House, Moray, pl. 1738, 98 × 1712 ft (1980); Innes House, Moray, 65 × 1634 ft (1980); Aldoune Castle, Inv., 82 × 1634 ft (1980); Foules Castle, E. Ross, 66 × 18 ft (1983).

var. polonicaspecimens: Ashburnham Park, Sussex, 108 × 9 ft (1983); National Pinetum, Bedgebury, Kent, 87 × 514 ft (1982); Avondale, Co. Wicklow, Eire, 88 × 5 ft (1974).

[Larix decidua] var polonica (Raciborski) Ostenfeld & Syrach-Larsen

Common Names
Polish Larch

L. polonica Raciborski.

The common larch is subdivided into numerous races, differing in their climatic preferences and in various other ways of significance to foresters, but more or less identical in their botanical characters. The Polish larch, which is really only one of these races, is, however, usually recognised as a distinct species, subspecies, or variety, since it differs from the larch of the Alps in its smaller cones with more concave scales. It is perhaps intermediate botanically, as it certainly is geographically, between the European larch and the West Siberian larch (L. sibirica). Even in quite recent times it was wide­spread in Poland but is now almost extinct in the wild, the main concentration being in the Little Poland Highlands, south of Warsaw.There is a specimen of this variety in the National Pinetum at Bedgebury, pl. 1926, 72 × 4{1/2} ft (1965). Its shoots are pendulous, and paler than in the typical common larch.L. sibirica Ledeb. L. russica (Endl.) Trautv.; Pinus larix var. russica Endl. Siberian Larch. – Although closely related to the common larch, this may be distinguished by the earlier growth in spring, the longer, more slender leaves, and in the downy, more concave scales of the cone. Native of N.E. European Russia and W. Siberia, also of N. Mongolia and parts of the Tianshan. It appears to have no value in this country. Its early growth renders it very subject to injury by late spring frosts.


Synonyms / alternative names
L. europaea pendula Laws

The epithet pendula has been attached to many different trees of more or less pendulous habit. In the forthcoming revision of Larix for TSO they will be treated as a Cutivar Group [JMG October 2023].