Japense Larch is a very rare tree in Exeter as Larch trees are as a whole are not widely planted. Typically Larch trees are planted in large plantations and used as timber for various uses. As such it is a real treat when you come across a Larch (of any kind) across Exeter. They are a fairly fast growing tree and can reach heights of up to 50m. What makes these trees so unusual is that they are one of the few confiers that are deciduous rather than an evergreen. Nearly all confiers are evergreen but Larch sheds it's needles in the Autumn and they are a brlliant golden yellow colour during leaf fall. It was introduced into the UK in 1861 by John Veitch and the name kaempferi is in honour of the German scientist Engelbert Kaempfer.
As the name suggests they are native to Japan and are within the mountains of Chūbu and Kantō regions in central Honshū. Due it's growth habit and resistance to Lachnellula willkommii (Larch canker) it was used as a replacment of European Larch across the UK. By accidental cross-pollination of Japanese and European larch on the Duke of Atholl’s estate in Dunkeld the Hybrid larch came to be. This hybrid grows faster than both parent trees and appears to be even more reistant to most Larch related diseases. As such the Hybrid Larch is now widely planted in conifer plantations across the UK.
The bark is scaly and grey with flecks of orange on more mature trees
The twigs are reddish in colour and the buds are alternatively arranged
The bark is smooth and red-brown on young trees. As the tree matures the bark becomes more scaly and fissured. The bark becomes more grey in colour as it ages. The branches and twigs are also very interesting as they look like they have lots of small spurs across them. These spurs contain the buds which during March open to reveal the flowers and not long after the leaves. The leaves are arranged in whorls and are usually 2cm - 5cm in length. The colours of the leaves are a light glaucous green during Spring and by Autumn they are turn a brilliant yellow and transform the landscape. The ground is then littered with thousands and thousands of these yellow needs making it look like a living carpet - another beautiful feature of this tree.
It is a medium-sized to large deciduous coniferous tree reaching heights of up to 50 m tall
During March to April the flowers are on show. The female flowers are a deep pink and known as Larch roses
The flowers of Japanese Larch are stunning. It is the female flowers that really catch your eye as these are a deep pink colour and as the leaves haven't come out yet they really stand out. The male flowers are much smaller and are much easier to miss. Like nearly all confifers they are monoecious in nature which means both the male and female flowers are on the same tree but different parts. During March the tree is in bloom and this will last throughout April typically. By then the male flowers would of been shed and the new leaves will be visible. During May the deep pink flowers slowly change to a green colour and by Autumn they would of matured to brown and tough cones. The mature cones contain up to 50 seeds typically and are dispersed by the wind.
The leaves are arranged in whorls and are usually 2cm - 5cm in length
The 50 or so seeds are contained within the mature female cones