This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
So frequently do we come across huge plantations of Larch that we might be pardoned for supposing it to be a native tree; but though it was introduced to Britain as an ornamental tree about two hundred and fifty years ago its true home is in the South European Alps. It is singular in the fact of being a deciduous conifer, that is it sheds all its leaves in the autumn, and remains naked until the spring. A larch-wood in winter presents rather a weird and dreary aspect, the grey branches and trunks appearing as if dead and withered, an aspect that is intensified when, as frequently happens, the branches are thickly invested with the lichens Ramalina and Evemia. But in spring the Larch again becomes a thing of beauty, and, as Tennyson sings:" Rosy plumelets tuft the Larch, And rarely sings the mounted thrush; And underneath the barren bush Flits by the sea-blue bird of March."
These "rosy plumelets" are the future cones, and they are very conspicuous on the bare branches. They become ripe by their first Autumn, when they are but little more than an inch in length, rather oval than conical; erect on the branch, and the scales with irregular margins. When first the leaves appear they are in tufts, arranged alternately, as shown in our figure, but as the season advances each tuft lengthens into a twig and the leaves become scattered along it as the wood grows - the tree not gaining in good looks thereby. The tree has a wonderfully slender pyramidal form, due to the downward growth of all the branches. It is greatly appreciated as a timber-producing tree, its useful wood being fit to use when the tree is only forty years of age, in which respect it has distinct advantage over the Scotch-pine, which requires eighty years in order to produce serviceable timber. In its early years its annual growth exceeds two feet. At ten years of age from the sowing of the seed it has reached the height of twenty or twenty-five feet, and at fifty years it is eighty feet high. Its natural life is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred years. The Larch and the Spruce-fir have to a great extent supplanted the Scotch-pine in this country, owing to their more rapid growth and development of wood.
Larix europeea. - Coniferae. In its native countries the bark of the Larch is used for tanning, and the young shoots as fodder for cattle, whilst its resin is an article of commerce under the title of Venice turpentine.