The Japanese Larch tree, listed as either Larix kaempferi or Larix leptolepis, is a deciduous (non-evergreen) conifer. It has a really vibrant autumn colour that lasts for a few weeks, as the needles take some time to fall. It looks really bright in spring, when the needles are grass green and the branches are studded with small, creamy young cones and male flowers. In areas where canker is a problem for the European Larch, this disease resistant tree is usually planted instead.
You can also buy European Larch from our nursery to give some variety.
Japanese Larch is often used as a nurse tree for other, slower growing trees. The wood burns very poorly and strips are sometimes planted to act as a barrier to forest fires. The timber is mostly used for wood pulp and also for rot-resistant outdoor furniture.
Growing Japanese Larch Trees
Chalky soil is not suitable. Your trees are happy in exposed, wind-blasted places and at altitude. They love a moist soil, although we don't recommend planting them in low-lying areas that are waterlogged; their native range are mountains where rainfall is very high but drainage is good. Larches are vigorous trees that need plenty of light to look good. They will tolerate quite a lot shade, but they will grow sparsely and look disappointing.
Your trees will reach about 30 metres.
Larix kaempferi's wild range is a just small part of Honshu, the central island of Japan. Their Japanese name is Karamatsu. It is now grown all over the world in temperate regions and has been used in British forestry since about 1860. The name kaempferi is in honour of the German scientist Engelbert Kaempfer, who visited Japan for a few years in the 1680's and 90's. Apart from a handful of ports, the country was closed to foreigners during this period, so his visit was exceptional and his writings were some of the only information that Western world had about Japan until the Americans forced the country to open up in 1854.