The European Larch - Sörmland's province tree

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The European Larch - Sörmland's province tree

Discover Sörmland Blog
Published by Stefanie Schlosser in Province symbols · 7 April 2022
Tags: larchProvinceSymbol
Each Swedish province has bespoke province symbols, such as a province tree, bird, fish, rock type etc. I have already written articles about the fish hawk, Sörmland’s province bird and the white water lily, Sörmland’s province flower.
Now, I want to introduce you to the larch tree, Sörmland’s province tree.
The European larch (Larix decidua) is a special and very beautiful tree, that’s most easily recognized in autumn, when its needles take on a shining yellow color.

Fig.1: European larch (Larix decidua) in autumn color.

Most coniferous trees stay green all year round, since their needles are protected against the cold and drought durings winter. The larch, however, is a deciduous conifer and drops its needles in autumn. This is even represented in its scientific name Larix decidua.
By the end of the last ice age, about 10.000 years ago, the ice cover melted and first trees started their slow migration to the Scandinavian subcontinent. The larch grew only in the mountainous regions of Southern and Central Europe. It is sensitive to heat and therefore couldn’t make it through the warmer regions towards the north. In the 1780th it was brought to Sweden as decorative tree and from then on it spread over the country till the southern parts of Norrland. So, the European larch is actually not native to Sweden but to the Alps, Carpathian Mountains and Pyrenees.

As mentioned, Larix decidua doesn’t like the warmth. Moreso, it is adapted to extreme cold and can tolerate temperatures until -50°C.
There are no male or female larch trees but separate flowers of each sex are produced on the same tree. This is called monoicy, which derives from the Greek language and can be translated as “one house”. The contrary is dioicy as for example found in the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior). Ash trees are either male or female and for reproduction the pollen has to be transported from one to another tree.   

Fig.2: Female flower (red) and male flowers (yellow) on the same branch.

Larch wood is high in resin and therefore very resistant against wood rot. It’s been used for boats, buildings and even underground constructions. Furthermore, young trees are popular as bonsai culture. Even in herbal medicine Larix decidua has its place, for example in the Bach flower remedies. In Germany, the European larch was the tree of the year 2012.

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