Larch (larix, the ancient name), a genus of deciduous coniferous trees, of the pine subfamily. They have at times been classed with the pines and the firs, from both of which they differ, principally in their deciduous clustered leaves and simple pollen grains. There are but few species, natives of mountainous countries in the northern parts of both hemispheres. The American larch (L. Americana) extends from the mountains of Virginia northward to Hudson bay; in New England and Canada it is known as hackmatack, and in the southern and western states it is called tamarack. In the forests it reaches the height of 70 ft., but is usually much smaller; in its more northern localities it is found on uplands, but as it advances south it more frequently grows in moist soil; in cultivation it succeeds on almost any soil, but makes the most rapid growth in a deep and moist one. It is a slender, erect tree, with horizontal branches; the primary leaves are scattered; the secondary ones are many in a fascicle, developed early in the spring from lateral, scaly, and globular buds; they are linear, about an inch long, of a very soft texture, of a light bluish green, which becomes in autumn a soft yellow color.
The sterile catkins are borne near the ends of the branches, erect, round, and about a quarter of an inch long; the fertile ones, placed near the middle of the branches, are erect, half an inch long, of few scales, which at flowering time are of a crimson color; the ripe cone is about three fourths of an inch long. Some make a distinction between the black and the red larch, but the only differences are those which may be produced by locality. The wood is very close-grained, compact, and remarkable for strength and durability; it is very heavy, and almost incombustible except when splintered; on account of these qualities it is valued in ship building. As an ornamental tree it is inferior to the European larch (L. Europcea), which differs mainly in its more pendulous branches and the shape and color of its cones, which are about one half larger. This species is found throughout central Europe, especially in the Alps, and is largely cultivated both as an ornamental and a timber tree. It is of remarkably rapid growth, and large plantations of it soon yield profitable returns.
The plantations of the dukes of Athol in Scotland have become historical as illustrations of extensive and profitable arboriculture; previous to 1826 the duke and his predecessors had planted more than 14,000,000 larches, occupying over 10,000 acres. Some plantations of moderate size have been set in our western states with prospects of success. A number of named varieties, in which there is a departure from the typical form, are offered in European nurseries. A very full account of the species, and of its cultivation and uses, is given in Loudon's "Arboretum et Fruticetum," vol. iv. The western larch (L. occidentalis) was first discovered by Nuttall in the northwest; it is found along the Columbia and other rivers of these regions, where it grows to the height of 150 ft. A few other species are enumerated, but little is known of them. - The False Larch is pseudo-larix Kcempferi from China, where it is a favorite tree. It has an aspect between that of a cedar and a larch. Its much longer leaves and larger and differently shaped cones distinguish it from the larch. The few specimens that are in cultivation in this country give promise of its success.
It is also called the golden pine, a translation of its Chinese name.
American Larch (Larix Americana).
European Larch (Larch Europaea).