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European Larch

Larix decidua

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Pinaceae (Pine)
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
45 metres tall
Gardens, mountains, parks, roadsides, woodland.

Variable in colour, no petals
Male flowers with cream-coloured anthers in globular clusters appear underneath the shoots. Female flowers look like pinkish-red cones and are situated between the young larch needles. Female flowers are sometimes called 'Larch Roses'. Wind pollinated.
The female flowers eventually become the fruit which is a brown cone. The cones have hollow tops and grow as large as 4cm. The scales of the cones open to shed the winged seeds.
The Larch is central Europe's only deciduous coniferous tree. The light green leaves are needle-like, up to 4cm in length. They grow out in clumps from the twigs. At the base of each clump is a woody knob in which the leaves grow out from.
Needles smell like freshly mown grass with a slightly resinous hint of pine.
Other Names:
Common Larch.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Larix decidua, also known as European larch, is a species of larch tree that is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe. It is a deciduous conifer, meaning that it loses its needles in the fall and has separate male and female trees. The tree can grow to be quite tall, reaching heights of up to 45 meters. The wood of L. decidua is strong and durable and is used in construction, flooring, and furniture. It is also popular as an ornamental tree in gardens and parks.


European Larch, also known as Larix decidua, is a deciduous coniferous tree that is native to the mountainous regions of Europe. It is a relatively large tree that can reach heights of up to 45 meters and has a conical shape. The tree is known for its beautiful light green needles that turn golden yellow before shedding in the autumn.

One of the most interesting features of the European Larch is that it is a deciduous conifer. Unlike most other conifers, the European Larch sheds its needles each autumn, producing a beautiful display of golden yellow before becoming dormant for the winter. This makes it a popular choice for ornamental planting in gardens and parks, where its autumnal display is highly prized.

The wood of the European Larch is also highly valued for its strength and durability. It is a popular choice for use in construction, particularly in outdoor applications such as decking and fencing, as it is resistant to decay and insect damage. The wood is also used for making furniture, flooring, and other decorative items.

The European Larch is also an important species for wildlife, providing a habitat for a range of animals and insects. The tree’s dense foliage provides cover and nesting sites for birds, while its seeds are a valuable food source for small mammals such as squirrels and voles. The tree’s bark is also an important winter food source for deer and other herbivores.

In addition to its ecological and economic importance, the European Larch has a long history of medicinal use. The tree’s resin has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for respiratory ailments such as coughs and colds. The resin is also a common ingredient in natural cosmetics and skin care products.

The European Larch is a member of the Pinaceae family, which includes other well-known trees such as pines, spruces, and firs. It is found in a wide range of habitats, from low-lying areas to high mountain slopes, and can tolerate a variety of soil types and climatic conditions. It is also a hardy tree, able to withstand cold winters and strong winds.

The European Larch has been cultivated in gardens and parks throughout Europe for centuries, and has been widely introduced to other parts of the world as an ornamental tree. It is also grown commercially for its timber, which is highly valued for its strength, durability, and resistance to decay. In some regions, such as the Alps, the European Larch is an important species for the tourism industry, with visitors coming to see the stunning autumnal displays of the tree's golden needles.

Despite its economic and ecological importance, the European Larch is facing a number of threats. One of the main threats is climate change, which is altering the tree's natural habitat and making it more vulnerable to pests and diseases. In addition, habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization and land use change are also affecting the tree's ability to thrive in its natural range.

To address these threats, conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore the European Larch and its habitat. These efforts include the establishment of protected areas, the planting of new trees in degraded areas, and the development of sustainable forest management practices.

In addition to its ecological and economic importance, the European Larch also has cultural significance. The tree has played an important role in European folklore and mythology, and has been associated with a range of cultural traditions and beliefs. For example, in some parts of Europe, the tree was believed to have protective powers and was planted near homes and other buildings to ward off evil spirits.

The European Larch is also a popular species for bonsai cultivation, due to its small needles and attractive growth habit. Bonsai enthusiasts use a range of techniques to cultivate miniature versions of the tree, creating intricate and highly detailed works of art.

If you are interested in growing European Larch, it is important to consider its growing requirements. The tree prefers moist, well-drained soils and a cool, humid climate. It is best suited to high altitudes or cool coastal regions, and may struggle in hot, dry areas. When planting, ensure that the tree has plenty of room to grow, as it can reach significant heights over time.

The European Larch also has a long history of use in traditional medicine. Its resin has been used for centuries to treat a range of ailments, including coughs, colds, and skin irritations. The resin contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it effective in treating respiratory and skin conditions. In addition, the tree's needles and bark have been used to make teas and other medicinal preparations.

Recent scientific studies have confirmed the medicinal properties of the European Larch, and researchers are exploring its potential use in the development of new drugs and treatments. For example, studies have shown that the tree's resin contains compounds that may be effective in treating cancer and other diseases.

In addition to its medicinal properties, the European Larch is also valued for its role in carbon sequestration. Like all trees, the European Larch absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis, storing the carbon in its wood and roots. This makes the tree an important component of efforts to combat climate change, as it helps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

One interesting feature of the European Larch is its unique adaptation to cold climates. Unlike most conifers, the European Larch is a deciduous tree, shedding its needles in the fall and regrowing them in the spring. This adaptation allows the tree to conserve water and energy during the cold winter months, when the ground may be frozen and water is scarce.

In addition, the needles of the European Larch are unique among conifers in their color and texture. They are soft and pliable, rather than stiff and prickly like most conifer needles, and they turn a beautiful golden color in the fall before dropping off for the winter.

The European Larch also has a unique growth habit, with a straight trunk and a narrow, conical crown. This makes it a popular species for use in landscaping and urban forestry, as it can be planted in rows to create a uniform and attractive visual effect.

Finally, the European Larch has also been used for centuries in traditional woodworking and carpentry. Its wood is strong, durable, and resistant to decay, making it ideal for a range of applications, from building construction to furniture making. The wood is also highly prized for its beautiful grain patterns and warm color, making it a favorite of woodworkers and artisans around the world.

In conclusion, the European Larch is a fascinating and versatile tree species with a rich history and a range of ecological, cultural, and economic benefits. Its unique adaptations, growth habits, and wood properties make it a valuable asset in a variety of settings, and its role in medicine and carbon sequestration further enhance its importance. By valuing and protecting this valuable species, we can ensure that it continues to contribute to our world for generations to come.


European Larch filmed near Scout Scar car park, Cumbria on the 16th July 2022.


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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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