A small tree; branches horizontal and ascending, the branchlets and bud-scales densely pubescent with whitish hairs. Leaves: narrowly linear, without sheaths, in fascicles on short, lateral, scaly budlike branchlets, deciduous. Flowers: in aments, short, lateral, monoecious, staminate from leafless buds, the fertile buds commonly leafy at the base, red. Fruit: cones oblong, promptly deciduous.
Lyall's Larch is a very lovely tree. It is not an evergreen. In September, if you look up to where the conifers greet the edge of the great white neves, you will see a zone of glorious flaming yellow foliage adorning the crags and cliffs, and separating the rich green Hemlock, Spruce, Pine, and Fir from the purity of the perpetual snows. This yellow sheen is the autumn dress of the Lyall's Larches; for when the brief alpine summer is past the leaves of these beautiful trees, which grow in clusters out of woody cups, and in July are a tender pale green, turn golden-hued before they fall.
The cones are small and dainty and soon drop off. It is very pleasant to pause awhile amongst a grove of these exquisite feathery apple-green Larches, and recall the words of one who said: "Behind me lay the forests hushed with sleep; Above me in its granite majesty,
Sphinx-like, the peak thro' silent centuries Met the eternal question of the sky.
Victor at last - throned on the cragged height - I scan the green steeps of the mountain side Where late I toiled. The forest lands stretch wide,
And in deep valleys farms gleam far and white,
Vistas of distance break upon my sight.
The peopled plain creeps to the sky's blue rim, Where new peaks gather substanceless and dim,
As half-remembered dreams at noontime light.
"Between two silences my soul floats still
As any white cloud in this sunny air.
No sound of living breaks upon my ear, No strain of thought - no restless human will Only the virgin quiet, everywhere Earth never seemed so far, or Heaven so near. In the awed silence of this dim high place
One keeping vigil might not fear, indeed,
If it befell him as that man of old, Who in the mountain met God face to face."