The Gymnosperm Database


A 1000 yr old tree (980 years ring count) from Val Malenco, Italy [Renzo Motta].


Bark on a 50 cm dbh ornamental tree, Seattle (USA) [C.J. Earle, 1999.03].


Cones and foliage on an ornamental of var. polonica [C.J. Earle, 2004.04.03].


Ripening cones on an ornamental of var. decidua [C.J. Earle, 2004.06.07].


Nearly mature cones, prior year cones, and foliage on an ornamental of var. decidua [C.J. Earle, 2010.06.14].


Pinus cembra (dark green) and Larix decidua (light green) in a mountain valley, 1200-1500 m elevation, along the Tour du Mont Blanc, France. Each species primarily forms pure stands, with cembra prevalent in rocky areas and decidua prevalent on deeper soils. Note avalanche tracks [Réjean Drouin, 2017.07].

range map

Range of Larix decidua (Atlas Florae Europaeae 1998).

Excellent flower and pollen cone photos can be seen HERE (2007.10.22).


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Conservation status

Larix decidua


Common names

European larch; Mélèze d'Europe [French]; larice comune [Italian]; Gemeine Lärche, Europäische Lärche [German]; Modřín opadavý [Czech]; Smrekovec opadavý [Slovakian]; Modrzew europejski [Polish]; Модрина європейська [Ukrainian]. Var. polonica: Larice, zada [Polish].

Taxonomic notes

Syn: Pinus larix L.; Larix europaea Lam. & DC.; L. sudetica Domin (Farjon 1990). Two varieties:


Deciduous tree to 30(-52) m tall and 100(-270) cm dbh, usually with a single round trunk supporting a pyramidal to columnar crown of thick, downswept branches, ascending near the ends. Bark deeply fissured, flaking, medium to dark gray to reddish brown, with reddish inner bark. Twigs slender to stout, flexible to stiff, pale yellow to tan, glabrous or very slightly pubescent, the stubby short shoots cylindrical and 3-10 mm long. Leaves on long shoots sparse, appressed to the shoot or spreading; most leaves borne on short shoots in bunches of 30-40 needles, 2.5-3.5 cm long, 0.5-1 mm thick, linear, soft, pliable, flattened or broadly triangular in cross-section, with some stomata on all surfaces but mostly on the lower surface, in two pale bands separated by a keel; light green, darkening through the summer, turning yellow and falling in autumn; apex obtuse to acute. Pollen cones terminal on short shoots, yellow, 5-10 mm long. Seed cones terminal on short shoots, on curved peduncles 5-10 mm long, ovoid with an obtuse apex, 2.5-4 cm long, comprised of 25-35 seed scales, bracts shorter than seed scales; dark red maturing pale green, then bark brown. Seeds 4 mm with a 6-10 mm wing (Farjon 1990, 2010; pers. obs. of ornamental trees).

Distribution and Ecology

SE France, Switzerland, N Italy, S Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania; in the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains at (600-)1000-2200(-2500) m (Farjon 1990). Hardy to Zone 4 (cold hardiness limit between -34.3°C and -28.9°C) (Bannister and Neuner 2001, variety not specified).

Variety carpatica is in the E Carpathian Mountains and in the NW Ukraine (Farjon 1990).

Big tree

A tree 271 cm dbh and 30 m tall was recorded in the Ulten Valley, Saint Nicholas, Italy (International Dendrology Society Year Book 1984).

There is also a record of a tree 261 cm dbh and 28 m tall in Santa Geltrude in the Trentino Alto, Ultimo, BZ, Italy (Corpo Forestale Della Stato, a listing of big trees in Italy, link now dead).

A tree found by Räsänen (2010) was then 46.8 meters tall (laser measurement) and 149 cm dbh, in Thüringen, Germany, outside the natural range of the species.

Another big German tree is the Brüsenwälder Lärche, planted in about 1770 and located near Warthe, north from Berlin, Brandenburg. It was 46.3 m tall (laser) and 152 cm dbh in 2010 (Räsänen 2010).

Another stand of very large trees, planted outside the native range of the species beginning in about 1742, is in Schlitz, Germany. One celebrated tree called the "Grand German" is 112 cm dbh and 45.5 m tall (Räsänen 2012). Another tree in the stand was 53.8 m tall (laser) and 80 cm dbh on January 10, 2013; this is currently the tallest known tree in the species (Brüne 2013).

The tallest tree in Finland is a 47.1 m (laser) tree in a research forest of the Finnish Forest Research Institute in Punkaharju (Räsänen 2012).


One tree-ring collection, presumably based on living-tree material, covers 986 years (International Tree-Ring Data Bank, chronology FRAN010, limiting dates 988-1974). The tree pictured at right yielded a 980 year ring count that did not go to pith (Renzo Motta, pers. comm. 2000.07.01).


Some particularly interesting work involving the ecophysiology of ring development was been done by Oleksyn and Fritts (1991).


This is an important timber tree in Europe, where extensive plantations have been created, primarily at elevations substantially lower than the montane and subalpine native distribution of the species.



Var. polonica is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.


Atlas Florae Europaeae. 1998. Computer program available for download at URL=, accessed 2009.04.17.

Brüne, K. 2013. European larch close to Richthof., accessed 2013.02.24.

Farjon, Aljos. 1990. Pinaceae: drawings and descriptions of the genera Abies, Cedrus, Pseudolarix, Keteleeria, Nothotsuga, Tsuga, Cathaya, Pseudotsuga, Larix and Picea. Königstein: Koeltz Scientific Books.

Miller, P. 1768. The Gardener's Dictionary, ed. 8. London. Available:, accessed 2011.05.20.

Räsänen, K. 2010.10.20. European larch., accessed 2012.09.20. The site includes a number of photographs of tall and big larches.

Räsänen, K. 2010.10.20. New record European larch., accessed 2012.09.20. The site includes some excellent photographs of these trees.

See also

FEIS database.

The species account at Threatened Conifers of the World.

Last Modified 2017-12-29