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Woody > Larix > Larix lyallii > Larix lyallii

Larix lyallii

Subalpine Larch

Origin:  Western North America.
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Named after a Scottish naturalist and surgeon, Larix lyallii is unique as it is a deciduous conifer. Growing at 1,200 m and higer above sea level it is not easily accessible. For enthusiasts, the summer foliage is a bright blue-green which makes for peaceful hikes. Before dropping its leaves in late autumn it turns a vibrant golden colour. Due to its growing environment, the subalpine larch suitably anchors itself to the rocky fissures with a large tap root and extends large lateral roots.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous)
USDA Hardiness Zone
Canadian Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
(-34) - (-40)
Temperature (°F)
(-30) - (-40)
12-15 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
The subalpine larch is a deciduous conifer reaching heights of 12-15 m. with blue-green leaves that turn golden in autumn. Sprouting from the projecting bumps of the branches, leaves cluster in groups of 30-40.
Grows in partial shade to full sunlight, and prefers well drained gravelly soil.
Subalpine larch is a gnarled looking tree often having an irregularly shaped crown that is wind-swept and wide-spread.
ID Characteristic
The fringed margins on the scales covering almost all of the buds have woven long white hairs during the winter months. In the autumn it turns a gorgeous, vibrant golden colour.
Larchs are prone to canker but pose no serious threat to the plant.
Larix lyallii grows along the timberline on exposed rocky slopes between the Cascade and Rocky Mountains, from Alberta and British Columbia to Montana and Oregon.
Bark/Stem Description
Juvenile bark has cinnamon red scales. As it matures, scales form with hues of purples and reds and are more deeply grooved. The thickness of the bark ranges from 0.5-1.5 cm.
Flower/Leaf Bud Description
Buds are nearly black in colour and are covered in hoary tomentum.
Leaf Description
Leaves are 4 angled, blue-green and are clustered into 30-40 needles. Measuring 2.5-4 cm in length, the leaves have short points and are rigid.
Flower Description
Male flowers of the larch are short and oblong. Female flowers are ovoid-oblong.
Fruit Description
Larches are monoecious plants. The strobili of the larch are scattered along the branches. Female and male strobili shoots spur up between the leaf-bearing shoots. By the end of May, the buds bearing strobili swell. Purplish cones take the place of the female strobili and measure 4-5 cm in length by September.
Colour Description
The foliage is a blue-green in the summer months. During the autumn months the leaves turn golden in colour.
Texture Description
Before the cones open and dry they should be collected. Propagation is easily accomplished if seeds are planted in the autumn. The seeds should be soaked in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for at least 24 hours to soften the seed casing. Once seeds have germinated keep them in a cold fame at lower temperature with plenty of light. In late summer larches can also be propagated by cuttings. Semi-hardwood, leafy cuttings should be acquired from young trees. Apply a rooting hormone through a quick-dip at 2,000 ppm to encourage new root growth.
Sargent, Charles Sprague. Manual of the Trees of North America, New York, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1965.Print Hartmann, Hudson Thomas, Dale E. Kester, Fred T. Davies Jr, and Robert L. Geneve. Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print.