European larch (EL)
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Native to the Alps and parts of eastern Europe (Sudeten region, Tatras mountains).
Collections from good British seed stands or provenances from the Czech republic (aka Sudeten larch) and Slovakia should be preferred. Such material shows much less vulnerability to larch canker, while sources from high elevations in the Alps are very susceptible to canker and should be avoided.
Adapted to sub-continental climate with low temperatures; windfirm but suffers from exposure; susceptible to damage by early spring frosts. Needs sites of poor to medium nutrient status and light, moist but free-draining soils to grow well. However, on such sites it is generally outyielded by other species such as Douglas fir. Does not tolerate waterlogged, compacted or very nutrient poor mineral soils. A pioneer species with rapid early height growth and good stem form while the light shade makes it suitable for growing in mixture with broadleaves or other conifers.
Certain provenances are highly susceptible to the fungal disease, larch canker (Lachnellula willkommii), which causes perennial cankers that girdle or distort branches and stems. There is believed to be an association between frost damage and larch canker, so frosty sites may be particularly at risk. European larch can also occasionally suffer striking defoliation by the needle cast fungus Meria laricis.
More recently, larch has been found to susceptible to the introduced pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, which is causing widespread mortality to Japanese larch in western parts of Britain. Susceptibility of European larch to P. ramorum is uncertain at present. European larch can also be affected by Heterobasidion (Fomes root and butt rot) as well as another butt rot fungus, Phaeolus schweinitzii.
All three larches (EL, JL and HL) can be killed following attacks by the larch bark beetle, Ips cembrae, but this pest is only thought to occur in northern Britain. Trees under stress are preferentially attacked.
A species planted widely but not to any great extent. This species has the potential for future expansion on the right sites but its current position is unlikely to alter with projected climate change.
European larch is categorised as a Principal tree species – widely used for forestry and will continue to be a key species unless affected by a new pest or disease or adversely affected by climate change.
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