The larch is the only European conifer that is deciduous, shedding its leaves in autumn. It is a native of the Alps, Sudetens and Carpathians, but today is cultivated throughout practically the whole of Europe. It attains heights of 40 metres and has a thin, high-set crown. In old trees the bark is thick and deeply furrowed. The fresh green needles are borne singly on one-year shoots, and in clusters of 25 to 40 on older twigs. The tree flowers in early April, one of the first conifers to do so. In the autumn it is covered with ovoid cones which remain on the tree for several years. The larch begins producing seeds by the time it is fifteen years of age.
The larch is a sun-loving, fast-growing tree that requires abundant light and clean air. It is resistant to frost (except when the leaves are young) and heat, and its large, cordate root system provides it with firm anchorage. It is a very attractive tree, especially with the fresh, green foliage of spring.
The wood is of high quality, with a great expanse of reddish-brown heartwood. It is very durable and is much used in the building of boats, wall-panelling, light furniture, wooden staircases, etc.
Needles: Soft, 15—30 mm long, borne singly on one-year shoots and in clusters on older twigs. Flowers: Female purplish red (sometimes green), male yellow. Cones: Ovoid, 1—3 cm long. Seed: Light brown, 4 mm long.