Easily mistaken for : Japanese Larch Larix kaempferi which is slightly shorter at 37m and the seed cones turn both outwards and over at the lip. It is native not to the UK but to Japan where it can be trained as a bonsai. It too is widely planted in UK forestry plantations, but is being superseded by Hybrid Larch which is more vigorous and faster at producing timber.
Hybridizes with : Japanese Larch Larix kaempferi to produce
Hybrid Larch Larix × marschlinsii which is shorter than either parents at only 30m high and the bark is reddish-brown rather than the grey-pink bark of European Larch.
Hybrid Larch has larger cones than does Japanese Larch.
Hybrid Larch has scales on the cones which curve outwards at the lip and are angled away from the cone, rather similar to the way they are on Japanese Larch.
There are many other Larches, but these do not grow wild in the UK, but are instead planted, many being cultivars.
Uniquely identifiable characteristics
Distinguishing Feature : Larix is the only species of conifer tree that sheds its leaves over winter (that is, it is deciduous, not evergreen as are all other coniferous trees).
European Larch originates in the Alpine regions of Austria, Switzerland and Germany and other places where it grows at great altitudes (up to 2500m above sea level). It is Monoecious, with separate male and female flowers but with both growing on the same tree. The male flowers are called 'strobili' and are fawn coloured and always angled downwards. The female flowers are bright red, always angled upwards and will eventually become the seed cones in early Spring and before the leaves have re-appeared. The seed cones often remain on the tree for years. The colour of the seed cones varies from pink-purple to red. The leaves are long, linear needles which are bright green to begin with in April, but turn yellow in Autumn before falling off to carpet the forest floor. The bark is grey-pink.
European Larch used to be a popular tree for forestry plantations, where it can also self-seed, but was overtaken in popularity by
Hybrid Larch aka
Dunkeld Larch which grows faster and more vigorously but reaches less height (32m instead of the 40m for European Larch) and is less wide (8m rather than the 15m wide of European Larch) and is also more resistant to disease than either of its parents.
Labdanes and Abietanes are resinous and aromatic compounds. They are all isoPrenoids which all originate from iso-Pentenyl PyroPhospate which occurs in many (all??) plants.
The labdanes are terpenoids with two fused 6-membered carbon rings.
Larixol Acetate is an ester and being such probably smells even better than the other two compounds. But all will contribute to the aroma of European Larch trees, as well as the abietane diterpenoids below.
The abietanes are terpenoids with three fused 6-membered carbon rings in a slightly-bent Phenanthrene arrangement rather than the linear Naphthalene arrangement.
The terpenoids and diterpenoids found within the wood of European Larch are 26%
IsoBorneol, 12% Camphene, 10% D-Fenchyl Alcohol and 5% Larixol (a diol), whereas the bark contains 33% Larixol, 17% Phthalic Acid mono-EthylHexylEster, 15% 13-epiManool and 8%
The predominant lipophilic components of the heartwood are iso-Pimaric Acid and
Larixyl Acetate. Also the aldehyde
Venice Turpentine is produced from European Larch.
A PHTHALIC ACID ESTER
Your Author can only find one source quoting this compound as a constituent of European Larch; whether or not it is, your Author does not know. This substance is used widely as a plasticizer within plastics, especially in PVC (PolyVinylChloride) to make them less brittle and more pliable. But Phthalates are toxic, the ones with less than 6 carbon atoms in the side chains being more so. They also endocrine disruptors and alter hormone levels and can cause birth defects. Although they may not be as toxic as some of the notorious
Bisphenols, which are also widely used in plastics as plasticizer. These too are endocrine disruptors some with the ability to change the sex of fish and affect other aquatic life.