In Scotland you will commonly see three types of larch trees, the European (Larix decidua) introduced in about 1620, the Japanese (Larix kaempferi) introduced in about 1861 and the Hybrid (Larix *eurolepis). The recording of Hybrid larch is a world first for Scotland and it is thought that the Hybrid grew in 1897 at Dunkeld, an off spring of a cross between European and Japanese larch. Unfortunately we had another world first with larch in England when Phytophthora ramorum was recorded killing Japanese larch in 2009 in South West England. This devastating fungus like disease will have a serious impact on larch silviculture in western GB.
Larches are a deciduous (needles fall off in Autumn) conifer and have a durable timber which can be used for boat building and fencing applications. It’s deciduous and quick growing nature make it a valuable tree for landscaping and species diversification, sometimes used in intimate mixtures with fast growing conifers like Sitka spruce. Some foresters call larch the “honorary broadleaf”. Larch is a light demanding pioneer species and will benefit from regular thinning and planting on reasonably fertile and less wet soils. In more open grown larch stands, grasses and other species can develop. It was commonly planted as a firebreak in earlier plantations and Japanese larch could be planted on poorer and more exposed sites, although it tended to grow with a pronounced corkscrew habit.
090213 Ian Murgatroyd