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Larix decidua - Mill.

Common Name Larch, European Larch, Common Larch
Family Pinaceae
USDA hardiness 3-6
Known Hazards care with lactose intolerance as contains galactose. Inhalation may cause acute inflammation airways. Possible allergies (e.g. hives, rashes, contact dermatitis), Oral intake of bark or oil application over large skin areas may cause kidney damage [301].
Habitats Forms extensive open forests at high altitudes[81].
Range C. Europe - Alps to N. Russia and Siberia. Naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Larix decidua Larch,  European Larch, Common  Larch

Larix decidua Larch,  European Larch, Common  Larch


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Bloom Color: Red, Yellow. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Pyramidal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of lolypop
Larix decidua is a deciduous Tree growing to 45 m (147ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 4 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from April to May, and the seeds ripen from October to November. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
It cannot tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Larix europaea. Larix communis. Abies larix. Pinus larix.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Inner bark  Manna
Edible Uses:

Inner bark - it can be eaten raw or can be dried, ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making bread etc[2, 177]. A sweet-tasting manna is obtained from the trunk, it can be eaten raw but is mainly used medicinally[2, 7, 46, 61, 105]. Another report says that 'Briancon manna' is exuded from the leaves in the summer[4]. It is white, sweet and almost odourless[4].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Anthelmintic  Antidote  Antirheumatic  Antiseptic  Astringent  Bach  Balsamic  Diuretic  
Eczema  Expectorant  Haemostatic  Laxative  Rubefacient  Stimulant  Vermifuge  

The bark, stripped of its outer layer, is astringent, balsamic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and vulnerary[4, 21]. Its main application is as an expectorant in chronic bronchitis and has also been given internally in the treatment of haemorrhage and cystitis[4, 238]. A cold extract of the bark is used as a laxative[9]. As an external application, it is useful in the treatment of chronic eczema and psoriasis[4]. The powdered bark can be used on purulent and difficult wounds to promote their healing[21]. The bark is harvested in the spring and should be dried rapidly[4]. The turpentine obtained from the resin is antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, haemostatic, rubefacient and vermifuge[4, 238]. It is a valuable remedy in the treatment of kidney, bladder and rheumatic affections, and also in diseases of the mucous membranes and the treatment of respiratory complaints[4]. Other reports say that it is contraindicated for anyone with a kidney complaint[7, 238]. Externally, the turpentine is used in the form of liniment plasters and inhalers[4]. It has also been suggested for combating poisoning by cyanide or opium[4]. The plant is used in Bach flower remedies - the keywords for prescribing it are 'Lack of confidence', 'Anticipation of failure' and 'Despondency'[209]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Larix decidua for fevers & colds, coughs/bronchitis, tendency to infection, blood pressure problems, inflammation of mouth and pharynx, common cold (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Pioneer  Resin  Tannin  Wood

Large quantities of resin are obtained by tapping the trunk[4]. Small holes are bored into the trunk, most resin being obtained from near the centre of the trunk[171]. When properly made, the same borehole can be used for 20 - 30 years[64]. The resin has a wide range of uses including wood preservatives, varnish, medicinal etc[4, 64]. It needs no preparation other than straining through a cloth to remove plant debris etc[4]. The hole is made in the spring and the resin extracted in the autumn[64]. Resin can be extracted from May to October[4]. The yield is about 40 grams per tree[64]. A fast-growing tree that establishes itself rapidly and is also said to improve the quality of the soil, the larch can be used as a pioneer species on cleared and exposed land in order to assist the establishment of other woodland trees[4]. The bark contains tannin[171]. This is much utilized in N. Europe[223], though in Britain the oak is considered to be a better source[4]. On a 10% moisture basis, the bark contains 11.6% tannin[223]. Wood - durable, tough, elastic, easy to split, takes a good polish[4, 46, 61, 81]. Larch produces one of the toughest woods obtained from conifers and is also resistant to woodworm[4]. It is widely used in construction, for railway sleepers, cabinet work etc[4, 46, 61, 81].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Specimen. Prefers an open airy position in a light or gravelly well-drained soil[11, 200]. It tolerates acid and infertile soils, though it dislikes very peaty or very chalky soils[11]. Another report says that it tolerates chalky soils[200]. Succeeds on rocky hill or mountain sides and slopes[200]. Tolerates salt-laden gales according to one report[75] whilst another says that it dislikes exposed positions[11]. The larch dislikes atmospheric pollution and so does not grow well in towns[185]. A north or east aspect is more suitable than west or south[11]. It dislikes growing in wet ground or frost pockets[11, 81], and grows best in areas with abundant rainfall[11]. The larch is a very ornamental tree that is widely grown for forestry[11, 81]. It is very fast growing with new annual growth of 1.5 metres often found and trees can average 60cm or more for many years[185]. The dormant trees are very cold hardy, but they are often excited into premature growth in Britain by mild spells during the winter, the plants are then subject to damage by late frosts and cold winds[1, 185]. The young shoots have a delicate mossy fragrance as the leaves unfold[245]. Hybridizes freely with other members of this genus. Open ground plants, 1 year x 1 year are the best for planting out, do not use container grown plants with spiralled roots[200]. Plants transplant well, even when coming into growth in the spring[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[81, 200]. Special Features:Not North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow late winter in pots in a cold frame. One months cold stratification helps germination[113]. It is best to give the seedlings light shade for the first year[78]. As soon as they are large enough to handle, prick out the seedlings into individual pots. Although only a few centimetres tall, they can be planted out into their permanent positions in the summer providing you give them an effective weed-excluding mulch and preferably some winter protection for their first year. Otherwise grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter and plant them out in early summer of the following year. The seed remains viable for 3 years[113] If you are growing larger quantities of plants, you can sow the seed in an outdoor seedbed in late winter. Grow on the seedlings in the seedbed for a couple of years until they are ready to go into their permanent positions then plant them out during the winter.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
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Larix laricinaTamarack, Hackmatack, American LarchTree18.0 2-5 MLMNMWe223
Larix lyalliiSub-Alpine LarchTree25.0 3-7  LMHSNM103
Larix occidentalisWestern LarchTree45.0 2-6 FLMNM223
Larix potaniniiLarchTree35.0 4-8 MLMNM003
Larix sibiricaSiberian LarchTree30.0 -  LMHSNM003
Larix x marschlinsiiDunkeld Hybrid LarchTree50.0 2-6 FLMNM003
Pseudolarix amabilisGolden Larch, Chinese golden-larchTree40.0 5-7 SLMHSNM022

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

tyr   Fri Apr 24 2009

i have read only in one source of my wild food research that the leaves of the larch are edible. is this true and if so why is it not more widely known. thank you.

Bartek Splawski   Tue Sep 8 2009

University of Connecticut detailed photos and info on Larch and other trees

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