European Larch (Larix decidua) Tree of the Year 2012
The European Larch can be considered an untypical conifer for several reasons. Unlike most other types of conifer trees, each fall, the European Larch loses its needle-like leaves as broadleaf trees do, giving it a brightly yellow color in October. During springtime, its new shoots are of a delicate green color.
An additional feature of the European Larch is the fact that it has both long and short shoots. The yearlong newly grown long shoots are fully covered in needles, while the needles on the older wart-shaped shoots (short shoots) can be found in clusters. Like most other trees, the European Larch actually prefers loose soils of great depth with a high level of nutrients and water supplies. It can also cope with dryness during the summer and frost during the winter, and is native to the continental inner Alps region, where it profits from the biocoenosis with the Swiss pine..
Comparatively, the European Larch needs much light, which is why it is oftentimes suppressed by other tree species which have a higher tolerance. It can also be found on the ridges of windy mountains as most other trees do not reach maturity in order to procreate in climatically challenging regions due to windthrow or snow damage. This presents a great advantage to the larch, which is rather resistant to storm-related damage. Apart from the material strength of the larch, which is uncommonly high compared to other conifers, it has developed a special trick for the case of above-average weather strain: It can drop larger branches, which leads to a certain loss of needles (resulting in a light stagnation in growth), still saves the overall functionality of the tree’s organism. Not only is larch lumber relatively strong, but its heart wood formation makes it rather resistant against corrosive fungi. his makes it a popular choice for untreated wooden balconies and carports. Its main problem is the fact that larch wood faults with changing humidity conditions, resulting in subsequent dimensional variations. As the Douglas fir features similar positive characteristics, but does not present the above mentioned problem, the larch is continuously replaced by the Douglas fir in outdoor construction. Generally, the European Larch has a tendency to grow abnormally. This oftentimes includes a bended shape of the lowest (most valuable) part of the trunk, resulting in its being exchanged for the Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi) in forestry. These two types of larches can be distinguished by the shape of their cones and their yearlong shoots: the European Larch has egg-shaped cones with barely opened plates, while the Japanese Larch features more compact cones with plates curved in a rosebud like shape. The yearlong long shoots of the European Larch glisten in a light yellow color, while the Japanese Larch’s shoots are of a red shade.