Larch (Larix sp.)
The Larches are an interesting family of trees because they have needles and cones, but they are deciduous, losing their needles each fall. In the first few years of owning a Larch, you get used to neighbors calling in the fall to tell you that your evergreen tree is dying because it is dropping its needles. These trees are lovely in the spring as their young needles fill in, giving a loose and open texture that creates light shade. Soft and flexible, these glossy needles or leaves are light green in May when they emerge, turning to green or bluish green over the summer and then on to a showy yellow in the fall. They drop in November leaving the small cones to add to the pleasant winter look. The Larch is not a tree for a yard that is less than a quarter of an acre, they need space to show their stuff. They have a spread that can reach thirty feet and they really don’t like to be tucked in amongst other trees. They want to stand out there in full sun acting like a prima donna. They are a tree for the North, so if you live in Virginia, you need to keep looking. In the end, as a specimen plant in a good sized landscape they are a real asset.
There are three members or species in this family. The Eastern Larch (called American Larch or Tamarack) (Larix laricina) is native to North America, while the Japanese Larch, (Larix kaempferi) and the European Larch (Larix deciduas) are imports. All three are suitable for the landscape though the European Larch is probably the favorite.