Uses and Benefits of Larch – Larix decidua

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Larch Quick Facts
Name: Larch
Scientific Name: Larix decidua
Origin Mountains of southern, central and Eastern Europe
Colors Green variably flushed red when immature, turning brown as they mature
Shapes Cones are erect, ovoid-conic, 0.8 to 2.4 inches (2 – 6 cm) long, with 10-90 erect or slightly incurved (not reflexed) seed scales
Taste Astringent
Health benefits Beneficial for rheumatism, bronchitis, diarrhea, asthma, chronic eczema, psoriasis, common cold, flu, H1N1 (swine) flu, ear infections in children, and HIV/AIDS
Larch or European larch scientifically known as Larix decidua is one of the few deciduous conifers belonging to Pinaceae (Pine family). The plant is native to mountains of southern, central and Eastern Europe, in the Alps and Carpathian Mountains as well as the Pyrenees, with disjunct lowland populations in northern Poland and southern Lithuania, from southeastern France and south-western Italy to central Romania. It is a large, long-lived and fast-growing tree, occurring mostly in mountainous regions in Central and Eastern Europe. Some of the popular common names of the plants are Common larch, European Larch, creosote bush, Larch and white larch. The genus name, Larix, comes from the Celtic word Lar, meaning fat, in reference to the tree’s oily wood. The species name decidua, means deciduous, from the Latin decidere, meaning to fall, a reference to the leaves.

The wood and resin is appreciated for numerous diversified purposes. Due to its strong and durable timber, it is particularly suited for weatherproof constructions such as houses, fences, roofs and bridges, as well as furniture. Furthermore, tannin can be extracted from the bark and resin from the wood. Its life span has been confirmed to be close to 1000 years (with claims of up to 2000 years) but is more often around 200 years. It is claimed that one of the larches planted by the second Duke of Atholl at Dunkeld in 1738 is still standing.

Larch Facts

Name Larch
Scientific Name Larix decidua
Native Mountains of southern, central and Eastern Europe, in the Alps and Carpathian Mountains as well as the Pyrenees, with disjunct lowland populations in northern Poland and southern Lithuania, from southeastern France and south-western Italy to central Romania
Common Names Common larch, European Larch, creosote bush, Larch, white larch
Name in Other Languages Afrikaans: Lariks
Albanian: Larsh
Amharic: Larch
Arabic: Al’arkas shajara (الأركس شجرة), ‘arziat ‘uwrubiya (أرزية أوروبية), KHezhap’ichi yevropakan (Խեժափիճի եվրոպական)
Armenian: Khezhap’ichi (խեժափիճի)
Azerbaijani: Larch, Avropa qara şamı
Basque: Alertzea, Europar laritz
Bavarian: Larch
Belarusian: Listoŭnica (лістоўніца), Listoŭnica jeŭrapiejskaja (Лістоўніца еўрапейская)
Bengali: Larch
Bosnian: Ariš
Bulgarian: Listvennitsa (лиственица), evropeĭska listvenitsa (европейска лиственица), evropeĭska listvennitsa (европейска лиственница)
Catalan: Làrix, làrix europeu, Alerç, Cedre d’olor
Cebuano: Larch
Chichewa: Larch
Chinese:  Luòyè song (落叶松), ou zhou luo ye song (欧洲落叶松)
Corsican: Larice
Croatian: Ariš, Europski ariš, listopadni ariš
Czech: Modřín, Modrín opadavý
Danish: Lærk, Europæisk lærk
Dutch: Lariks, Europese lork, Europese larix
English: Common larch, European Larch, creosote bush, Larch, white larch
Esperanto: Lariko, Eŭropa lariko
Estonian: Lehis, euroopa lehis
Filipino: Larch
Finnish: Lehtikuusi, Euroopanlehtikuusi
French: Mélèze, Mélèze commun, Mélèze d’Europe, pin de Briançon
Frisian: Larch
Galician: Lariço
Georgian: Larch
German: Lärche, Europäische Lärche, Gemeine Lärche, europäischer Lärchenbaum
Greek: Lárix (λάριξ)
Gujarati:  Larch
Haitian Creole: Melèz
Hausa: Larch
Hawaiian: Larch
Hebrew: לֶגֶשׁ
Hindi: Ek prakaar ka vrksh (एक प्रकार का वृक्ष)
Hmong: Larch
Kurdish (Kurmanji): Larch
Hungarian: Vörösfenyő, Európai vörösfenyo
Icelandic: Lerki, Evrópulerki
Igbo: Larch
Indonesian: Larch
Irish: Learóg, Learóg Eorpach
Italian: Larice, Larice commune, larice europeo, malesu
Japanese: Karamatsu (カラマツ), Yōroppakaramatsu (ヨーロッパカラマツ)
Javanese: Larch
Kannada: Lārc (ಲಾರ್ಚ್)
Kashubian: Eùropejsczi skòwrónk
Kazakh: Listvennichnyye (лиственничные)
Khmer: Larch
Kinyarwanda: Larch
Komi: Yevropais’ lisven’ (Европаись лисвень)
Korean: Nag-yeobsong (낙엽송)
Kyrgyz: Karagay (карагай)
Latin: Larix
Lao: Larch
Latvian: Lapegle, Eiropas lapegle
Lithuanian: Maumedis, Europinis maumedis
Lower Sorbian: Europski larik
Luxembourgish: Lärcht
Macedonian: Arish (ариш), Evropski ariš (Европски ариш)
Malagasy: Larch
Malay: Larch
Malayalam: Larch (ലര്ഛ്)
Maltese: Lerċi
Maori: Larch
Marathi: Tyācē lākūḍa  (त्याचे लाकूड)
Mongolian: Shines (шинэс)
Myanmar (Burmese): Larch
Nepali: Mepal (मेपल)
Norwegian: Lerk, Europeisk lerk, Europalerk, Europese lariks, Europese lork, gewone lariks
Occitan: Mèlze
Odia: Larch
Pashto  لارچ
Persian: کاج اروپایی, سیاه‌کاج اروپایی
Polish: Modrzew, Modrzew europejski
Portuguese: Larício, Lariço-europeu
Punjabi: Lāraca  (ਲਾਰਚ)
Romanian: Larice, zada
Russian: Listvennitsa (лиственница), Listvennitsa yevropeyskaya (Лиственница европейская)
Samoan: Sulu
Serbian: Evropski ariš (Европски ариш), arish (ариш)
Sesotho: Larch
Shambala: Evropski ariš
Shona: Larch
Sindhi: گهڻو ڪر
Sinhala: Larch
Scots Gaelic: Learag
Serbian: Arish (ариш)
Slovak: Smrekovec, Smrekovec opadavý
Slovenian: Macesen, navadni macesen
Somali: Larch
Spanish: Alerce, Navadni macesen, Alerce común, alerce blanco, alerce de Europa, alerce europeo, lárice, melis
Sundanese: Larch
Swahili: Larch
Swedish: Lärkträd, Bergtall, Contortatall, Europeisk lark, Sitkagran, Vitgran, Euroopanlehtikuusi, Lärk, Lärkträd
Tatar: Kabıgı (кабыгы)  
Tajik: Larch
Tamil: Ilaikaḷ koṇṭa mara vakai (இலைகள் கொண்ட மர வகை)
Telugu: Larc (లర్చ్)
Thai: T̂ns̄n chnid h̄nụ̀ng (ต้นสนชนิดหนึ่ง)
Turkish: Karaçam, Avrupa melezi, Katran ağaci
Turkmen: Garynja
Ukrainian: Modryna (модрина), Modryna yevropeysʹka  (Модрина європейська)
Upper Sorbian: Europski larik
Urdu: Larch
Uyghur: Larch
Uzbek: Tilog’och
Vietnamese: Cây sồi
Welsh: llarwydd, Llarwydden Ewrop
Xhosa: Larch
Yiddish: Lartsh (לאַרטש)
Yoruba: Larch
Zulu: Larch
Plant Growth Habit Pioneer, very long-lived, fast-growing,  medium-size to large deciduous coniferous tree
Growing Climates Man-made or disturbed habitats, forests, shrub lands, thickets, woodland borders, moist meadows, edges of yards, roadsides, and abandoned homesteads
Soil Grows best on uniformly moist, deep, fertile, well-structured and aerated soils.  It does not do well on pure sand.  Preferred soil textures include loamy sands, loams, and silty loams. It can also grow on shallow stony soils, including calcareous soils, with a medium ground water level
Plant Size 25–45 m tall, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter (exceptionally, to 53.8 m tall and 3.5 m diameter)
Bark Bark of young trees is thin, smooth, developing fissures as it matures.  On older trees the bark is very flaky and heavily ridged with wide fissures
Trunk Monopodial, straight or curved at base in slopes, with a diameter of 1-1.5 (2)m and fissured bark from reddish brown to light grey
Twigs 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
Leaf Needle-like, light green, 2–4 cm long which turn bright yellow before they fall in the autumn, leaving the pale yellow-buff shoots bare until the next spring
Flowering season April to May
Flower It produces individual male and female flowers on a same tree. Male flowers are arranged in globular clusters composed of creamy-colored anthers. They grow from the bottom side of shoots. Female flowers consist of clusters of scales that develop on top of shoots. They can be white, pink or green colored
Fruit Shape & Size Cones are erect, ovoid-conic, 0.8 to 2.4 inches (2 – 6 cm) long, with 10-90 erect or slightly incurved (not reflexed) seed scales
Fruit Color Green variably flushed red when immature, turning brown as they mature
Seed Seeds are 4-5mm long, greyish in color
Propagation From stem cuttings
Taste Astringent
Plant Parts Used Bark, Young Shoot, resin, needles
Lifespan About 600-800 years in optimal conditions, but some can live for up to 1000 years
Season October to November
Culinary Uses
  • Inner bark can be eaten raw or can be dried, ground into a powder and used with cereal flours in making bread etc.
  •  A sweet-tasting manna is obtained from the trunk, it can be eaten raw but is mainly used medicinally.

Plant Description

Larch is a pioneer, very long-lived, fast-growing, medium-size to large deciduous coniferous tree that normally grows about 25–45 m tall, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter (exceptionally, to 53.8 m tall and 3.5 m diameter). The plant is found growing in man-made or disturbed habitats, forests, shrub lands, thickets, and woodland borders, and moist meadows, edges of yards, roadsides and abandoned homesteads. It grows best on uniformly moist, deep, fertile, well-structured and aerated soils.  It does not do well on pure sand.  Preferred soil textures include loamy sands, loams, and silty loams. It can also grow on shallow stony soils, including calcareous soils, with a medium ground water level.

It is a light-demanding species; larch loses in competition with other trees. Additionally, it can tolerate very cold temperatures during winter. The crown of young trees is symmetrical, open, and narrowly conic becoming broad with age; the main branches are level to upswept, with the side branches often pendulous.  The shoots are dimorphic, with growth divided into long shoots (typically 10–50 cm long) and bearing several buds, and short shoots only 1–2 mm long with only a single bud.  Old trees often have large, buttressed low branches that run level for 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3 m) before turning upward. European larch is considered as deep-rooted. First year twigs are straw-colored to tan, turning grayish brown, bark becoming rough with brownish gray flaky scales. The crown is irregularly pyramidal, the branches on older trees often drooping. The trunk can reach 3 feet or more diameters at breast height (dbh).

Leaves

First-year twigs (typically 4-20″ long) are pale yellow with alternate leaves, while second-year twigs are gray to grayish brown with clusters of 30-60 leaves. Both types of leaves are about 0.8 to 1.6 inches (2 – 4 cm) long, needle-like in shape, and deciduous. During the spring, the leaves are light green, but they later become darker during the summer. During the fall, they turn yellow before falling to the ground. On second-year twigs, the leaf clusters are produced on short spur-twigs less than 1/8 (3 mm.) long. In each cluster, the leaves are joined together at the base, from which they spread outward in all directions.

Flower

European Larch is monoecious, forming both pollen cones and seed cones on the same tree. These cones are located toward the tips of second-year twigs during the spring. At this time of year, the small pollen cones are globoid-ovoid in shape and yellow, while the larger seed cones are ovoid in shape and dark red to reddish purple. Pollen cones consist of male (staminate) flowers and their scales, while seed cones consist of female (pistillate) flowers and their scales. The cones are cross-pollinated by the wind.

Fruit (Cone)

Afterwards, the pollen cones wither away, while the seed cones continue to develop until they become mature during the fall. Mature seed cones are 0.8 to 2.4 inches (2 – 6 cm) long and ovoid-oblong in shape with 10 to 90 erect or slightly incurved (not reflexed) seed scales. They are initially green from overlapping pubescent scales, but they later become dark brown and hairless. The seed cones are held more or less erect and can persist on a tree for more than one year, even after the seeds have been dispersed. The seeds are 4-5mm long, greyish in color. Behind each scale of the seed cone, there is a broad membranous bract. The old cones commonly remain on the tree for many years, turning dull grey-black. This bract is shorter than the scale. In addition to the bract, there is a pair of seeds at the base of each scale. These seeds have elongated wings and they are dispersed by the wind.

Traditional uses and benefits of Larch

  • The bark, stripped of its outer layer, is astringent, balsamic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and vulnerary.
  • Its main application is as an expectorant in chronic bronchitis and has also been given internally in the treatment of hemorrhage and cystitis.
  • Cold extract of the bark is used as a laxative.
  • As an external application, it is useful in the treatment of chronic eczema and psoriasis.
  • Powdered bark can be used on purulent and difficult wounds to promote their healing.
  • Bark is harvested in the spring and should be dried rapidly.
  • The turpentine obtained from the resin is antiseptic, balsamic, diuretic, hemostatic, rubefacient and vermifuge.
  • 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.
  • Externally, the turpentine is used in the form of liniment plasters and inhalers.
  • As an external application it has been found useful in chronic eczema and psoriasis.
  • It enhances the rate of immune system by fighting problems like chronic fatigue and viral infection.
  • It treats rheumatism, bronchitis, diarrhea and asthma.
  • It treats nervous disorders like autism, mood swings, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHA) and depression.
  • As an excellent dietary fiber, larch extracts can treat cancer very well.
  • It can highly treat your gastrointestinal (GI) tract and colon problems.
  • As a probiotic, larch extracts could increase bacteria production for good digestion.
  • It combats with cancer thus delay the growth of metastasis.
  • It possibly treats HIV and AIDS.
  • It improves the formation of uric acid in the body.
  • It also treats wounds, eye problems, skin rashes and allergies.
  • It is used for infections, including the common cold, flu, H1N1 (swine) flu, ear infections in children, and HIV/AIDS.
  • It is also used to treat liver cancer, as well as a brain condition caused by liver damage (hepatic encephalopathy).
  • Some people use it to provide dietary fiber, lower cholesterol, and to boost the immune system.
  • Bark, needles and young shoots of larch can be used in treatment of constipation, rheumatism, bronchitis, bleeding gums, earache and gout.
  • The Abenaki tribe utilized a tea of the bark for coughs.
  • Abitibi people used the leaves and inner bark for sore throats.
  • Chippewa tribe would use a poultice of the inner bark for burns.
  • The Menominee would use a poultice of the inner bark for inflammation.
  • The Algonquin people used a tea of the young branches as a laxative.
  • Montagnais people used a tea of the bark and buds as a diuretic and expectorant.
  • Ojibwa would crush the leaves and bark and apply for headaches, and would use an herbal steam for aching muscles as well as an air cleanser.

Other Facts

  • Large quantities of resin are obtained by tapping the trunk.
  • Resin has a wide range of uses including wood preservatives, varnish, medicinal etc.
  • It needs no preparation other than straining through a cloth to remove plant debris etc.
  • Wood is extensively used in construction, for railway sleepers, cabinet work etc.
  • European larch is planted as an ornamental and in shelter belts.
  • The oldest European larch on record was 672 years old in 1955.
  • Height for European larch is reported as 184 feet (56 m).
  • The wearing and burning of larch was thought to protect against evil spirits.
  • Dense heartwood that is used in the manufacture of coffins, buildings, telephone poles, railroad ties, fences, furniture and boats.
  • Piles, which hold the Venice (one of the most popular European cities) above the water, are built almost exclusively of the wood of the larch.
  • Women in central and northern parts of Asia believe that they can increase their chances to get pregnant if they spend the night under the crown of larch.
  • Europeans were wearing items made of larch to protect themselves from the evil spirits in the past.

Precautions

  • 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.
  • Avoid Use during pregnancy, breast feeding.
  • It may cause flatulence.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=183410#null

https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Larix+decidua

http://www.floracatalana.net/larix-decidua-mill

https://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/p/pinela35.html

https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LADE2

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/LAXDE

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-2493921

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/29967

https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/lardec/all.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larix_decidua

https://forest.jrc.ec.europa.eu/media/atlas/Larix_decidua.pdf

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a163

https://www.conifers.org/pi/Larix_decidua.php

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