Eastern Larch, as a native tree of Ohio, is only found in its extreme northeastern and northwestern counties, but it is common in New England, the upper Midwest, and much of Canada. It often goes by the alternative common names of Tamarack and American Larch. It is the only deciduous conifer that is native to Ohio, and strongly prefers moist to wet sites in acidic soils.
Fall color is a beautiful yellow, and after needle drop the winter form yields a strong central leader with strongly horizontal branches, with branchlets that do not droop. Specimens found in the open may grow to 70 feet tall by 20 feet wide, with a narrowly pyramidal growth habit. As a member of the Pine Family, it is related to other Larches, as well as the Firs, Spruces, Pines, and Hemlocks.
Two other Larches are planted as ornamentals for large landscapes, such as parks, arboreta, and cemeteries. Japanese Larch (Larix kaempferi) and European Larch (Larix decidua) are better suited for moist to dry soils, and are noted for their outstanding yellow to yellow-orange fall color on large trees as well as weeping forms. They can be distinguished in the United States from Eastern Larch by their longer drooping branchlets, longer needles, larger cones, platy rather than scaly or flaky bark, and their not being present in permanently wet soils.
Planting Requirements - Eastern Larch strongly prefers moist to wet soils (boggy, swampy, floodplain conditions are ideal) that are acidic, with cool summers and cold winters. In dry soils or areas with signifiant summer heat, growth will be difficult and the tree will become stunted. It grows in full sun to partial sun, and is found in zones 2 to 5.
Potential Problems - Eastern Larch, like other Larches, is prone to the Larch case-bearer, an insect that burrows into the needles in mid-spring and renders them brown for the remainder of the growing season. It also may become subject to the Larch sawfly as a pest, and rust fungi and wood rot as diseases. Siting it in moist to wet, acidic soils with minimal competition from other plants (including turfgrass) gives it the best chance to be a healthy, vigorous, beautiful, and unusual tree.