Larix decidua 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Pinopsida Pinales Pinaceae

Scientific Name: Larix decidua Mill.
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English European Larch
French Mélèze d'Europe
Pinus larix L.
Taxonomic Source(s): Farjon, A. 2010. A Handbook of the World's Conifers. Koninklijke Brill, Leiden.
Taxonomic Notes: Three varieties are recognized: the typical variety (var. decidua) from the Alps, West Carpathians, Slovenian Mts, var. carpatica Domin from central and eastern Europe and var. polonica (Racib. ex Wóycicki) Ostenf. & Syrach from Poland.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2015-09-18
Assessor(s): Farjon, A.
Reviewer(s): Thomas, P. & Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Allen, D.J., Chadburn, H. & Luscombe, D
Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 28 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

The species is widespread and common to abundant in much of its range, and is considered Least Concern at the global and EU28 member states levels. The European Larch is in fact expanding (northwards) with the abandonment of alpine cattle grazing in many parts of high altitude Europe. Larix decidua var. polonica has been assessed separately as it is Endangered. As this variety represents only a very small part of the European population and range, that assessment does not affect the overall assessment of the species.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The species is endemic to Europe, occurring naturally across central Europe from the Alps in eastern France, through the Carpathian and Slovenian mountains, to southern Poland, western Ukraine and northern Romania (Farjon 2010). It has been naturalised widely, for example in Great Britain and Scandinavia.

Three varieties are recognized:-
  • var. decidua: from the Alps, west Carpathians, and the Slovenian Mountains;
  • var. carpatica Domin: from central and eastern Europe;
  • var. polonica (Racib. ex Wóycicki) Ostenf. & Syrach: from Poland.
Countries occurrence:
Austria; Czech Republic; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Italy; Liechtenstein; Poland; Romania; Slovenia; Switzerland; Ukraine
Additional data:
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):600
Upper elevation limit (metres):2500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The overall population is thought to be stable.
Current Population Trend:Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species occurs in the high mountains of central Europe, at altitudes between (600-)1,000 to 2,200(2,500) m a.s.l.; in the central Alps it usually forms the tree limit. The soils are neutral to acidic, mostly on granitic rock. The climate has cool, moist summers and cold, snowy winters, but annual precipitation rarely exceeds 1,000 mm. Pure stands are uncommon, more often it is mixed with Pinus cembra in the Alps, below 1,800 m also with Picea abies.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):40

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The wood of European Larch is valued for its durability and has been used for centuries in the Alps and Carpathians to build houses; traditional style houses still use well seasoned wood of this species. Other traditional uses are fences, gates, feeding racks, and water troughs for animals. Due to its durability, the wood of European Larch has been used extensively for railway sleepers, until these were replaced by concrete and iron structures in modern times. Trees with a curved base were split and hollowed and the two halves joined to make 'Alphorns', large wind instruments with a far carrying low tone; competitions to blow the horn are still held in some regions of the Alps. This species has been introduced in the lowlands of Europe for plantation forestry as well as an amenity tree. In horticulture for gardens it is not so common, although a modest number of cultivars are known, most with various branching habits.

The tree also has numerous recorded medicinal uses. Bark has been used as an astringent, balsamic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and to treat wounds, and to treat eczema and psoriasis (PFAF 2014). Resin is extracted and used directly (dried and powdered), and also used to produce turpentine (PFAF 2014). The resin (and the turpentine extracted) has a wide range of non-medicinal uses in wood preservatives and varnishes, and tannin extracted from the bark is also used (PFAF 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): No major threats have been identified for this species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is present in numerous protected areas throughout its range, such as the Ojców National Park, southern Poland (Skrzypczyńska 2004). It is conserved ex situ, for example in Kostrzyca Forest Gene Bank, Poland (ENSCO 2014) and reported to occur in more than 100 botanic gardens worldwide (BCGI 2013).

The variety polonica from Poland was assessed as Endangered (Farjon 2013), whilst the other two varieties are both considered Least Concern but have not been formally assessed.

Citation: Farjon, A. 2017. Larix decidua. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T42309A83969267. . Downloaded on 23 June 2018.
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