The alpine larch, also called the subalpine larch, stands 12-15 metres tall. It has branches that grow horizontal to the trunk and they are often twisted and unevenly spaced. The needles are pale blue-green and grow in bunches. 30 to 40 bunches of needles line the sides of a twig. The cones look hairy and reddish-brown in colour. In the fall, the needles turn to a brilliant shade of golden-yellow before they fall. As a deciduous tree, it is one of the only needled trees to loose its needles every year.
RANGE & HABITAT
These trees are found throughout the Cascade and Rocky mountains. This hardy species can withstand freezing temperatures and likes to grow on rocky, exposed slopes.
In early spring the new growth of bright green needles is a delight to anyone who happens to be walking in the alpine habitat. By late fall the tree is again stunning, turning a bright golden-yellow before it drops its needles and prepares for winter.
Blue grouse eats the soft deciduous needles of the alpine larch. Woodpeckers like nesting in the hollowed-out part of larger trees. Bighorn sheep, grizzly and black bears, and at times mountain goats, all feed on the branches and bark of this tree. Large mammals use stands as windbreaks and grizzly bears make dens in these trees.
TRADITIONAL USES BY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
As the wood is strong and durable, it is used for building. The wood is also sometimes used for firewood.
They serve a valuable function as wildlife habitat in cold alpine regions. They help stop erosion on their steep slope habitat and contribute to watershed protection. These trees are also a wonder to see.
COSEWIC: Not at Risk
Photo: Sean Munson