Goal

The primary mission of the Alpine Forest Genomics Network (AForGeN) is to facilitate information exchange and collaboration among researchers interested in using landscape genomics approaches for studying adaptation in alpine forest ecosystems, with special attention to the effects of changing climate.

Guiding Principles

  • EMPOWER

    Develop resources for the entire genetics and genomics field that can be used as the basis for future forest genetics. Provide a sturdy foundation for modern scientific exploration of Coniferous forest ecosystems.

  • ADAPT

    Keep pace with changing Biotechnologies and employ these methods to forest genetics.

  • COMPARE

    Utilize comparative genomics to contextualize and annotate Conifer genomes. Apply the power of comparative genomics to new projects in Forest Genetics.

  • SHARE

    Openly publish and share any data that results from group efforts. Assist in collaborations that result from this data.

Species of Interest

  • Norway Spruce

    Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Description

    Norway spruce is a large, fast-growing evergreen coniferous tree growing 35–55 m (115–180 ft) tall and with a trunk diameter of 1 to 1.5 m (39 to 59 in). It can grow fast when young, up to 1 m (3 ft) per year for the first 25 years under good conditions, but becomes slower once over 20 m (65 ft) tall. The shoots are orange-brown and glabrous (hairless). The leaves are needle-like with blunt tips, 12–24 mm (15⁄32–15⁄16 in) long, quadrangular in cross-section (not flattened), and dark green on all four sides with inconspicuous stomatal lines. The seed cones are 9–17 cm (3 1⁄2–6 3⁄4 in) long (the longest of any spruce), and have bluntly to sharply triangular-pointed scale tips. They are green or reddish, maturing brown 5–7 months after pollination. The seeds are black, 4–5 mm (5⁄32–3⁄16 in) long, with a pale brown 15-millimetre (5⁄8-inch) wing.The tallest measured Norway spruce, 62,26 m (204 ft) tall, grows near Ribnica na Pohorju, Slovenia.

    Range and ecology

    The Norway spruce grows throughout Europe from Norway in the northwest and Poland eastward, and also in the mountains of central Europe, southwest to the western end of the Alps, and southeast in the Carpathians and Balkans to the extreme north of Greece. The northern limit is in the arctic, just north of 70° N in Norway. Its eastern limit in Russia is hard to define, due to extensive hybridisation and intergradation with the Siberian spruce, but is usually given as the Ural Mountains. However, trees showing some Siberian spruce characters extend as far west as much of northern Finland, with a few records in northeast Norway. The hybrid is known as Picea × fennica (or P. abies subsp. fennica, if the two taxa are considered subspecies), and can be distinguished by a tendency towards having hairy shoots and cones with smoothly rounded scales.Norway spruce cone scales are used as food by the caterpillars of the tortrix moth Cydia illutana, whereas Cydia duplicana feeds on the bark around injuries or canker.

    Cultivation

    The Norway spruce is one of the most widely planted spruces, both in and outside of its native range, and one of the most economically important coniferous species in Europe. It is used as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens. It is also widely planted for use as a Christmas tree. Every Christmas, the Norwegian capital city, Oslo, provides the cities of London (the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree), Edinburgh and Washington D.C. with a Norway spruce, which is placed at the most central square of each city. This is mainly a sign of gratitude for the aid these countries gave during the Second World War. In North America, Norway spruce is widely planted, specifically in the northeastern, Pacific Coast, and Rocky Mountain states, as well as in southeastern Canada. It is naturalised in some parts of North America. There are naturalised populations occurring from Connecticut to Michigan, and it is probable that they occur elsewhere. Norway spruces are more tolerant of hot, humid weather than many conifers which do not thrive except in cool-summer areas and they will grow up to USDA Growing Zone 8.In the northern US and Canada, Norway spruce is reported as invasive in some locations, however it does not pose a problem in Zones 6 and up as the seeds have a significantly reduced germination rate in areas with hot, humid summers.The Norway spruce tolerates acidic soils well, but does not do well on dry or deficient soils. From 1928 until the 1960s it was planted on surface mine spoils in Indiana.The Norway spruce is used in forestry for timber and paper production.The tree is the source of spruce beer, which was once used to prevent and even cure scurvy. This high vitamin C content can be consumed as a tea from the shoot tips or even eaten straight from the tree when light green and new in spring.It is esteemed as a source of tonewood by stringed-instrument makers. One form of the tree is called Haselfichte (Hazel-spruce) which grows in the European Alps and has been recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. This form was used by Stradivarius for instruments. (see German wikipedia for details).Norway spruce shoot tips have been used in traditional Austrian medicine internally (as syrup or tea) and externally (as baths, for inhalation, as ointments, as resin application or as tea) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, skin, locomotor system, gastrointestinal tract and infections.

    Longevity

    A press release from Umeå University says that a Norway spruce clone named Old Tjikko, carbon dated as 9,550 years old, is the "oldest living tree".However, Pando, a stand of 47,000 quaking aspen clones, is estimated to be between 80,000 and one million years old.The stress is on the difference between the singular "oldest tree" and the multiple "oldest trees", and between "oldest clone" and "oldest non-clone". The oldest known individual tree (that has not taken advantage of vegetative cloning) is a Great Basin bristlecone pine over 5,000 years old (germination in 3051 BC).

    Genetics

    The genome of Picea abies was sequenced in 2013, the first gymnosperm genome to be completely sequenced. The genome contains approximately 20 billion base pairs and is about six times the size of the human genome, despite possessing a similar number of genes. A large proportion of the spruce genome consists of repetitive DNA sequences, including long terminal repeat transposable elements. Despite recent advances in massively parallel DNA sequencing, the assembly of such a large and repetitive genome is a particularly challenging task, mainly from a computational perspective.Within populations of Picea abies there is great genetic variability, which most likely reflect populations' post-glacial evolutionary history. Genetic diversity can in particular be detected when looking at how the populations respond to climatic conditions. E.g. variations in timing and length of the annual growth period as well as differences in frost-hardiness in spring and autumn. These annual growth patterns are important to recognise in order to choose the proper reforestation material of Picea abies.

    Chemistry

    p-Hydroxybenzoic acid glucoside, picein, piceatannol and its glucoside (astringin), isorhapontin (the isorhapontigenin glucoside), catechin and ferulic acid are phenolic compounds found in mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal roots of Norway spruces. Piceol and astringin are also found in P. abies.

    Research

    Extracts from Picea abies have shown inhibitory activity on porcine pancreatic lipase in vitro.

    Taxonomy

    Populations in southeast Europe tend to have on average longer cones with more pointed scales; these are sometimes distinguished as Picea abies var. acuminata (Beck) Dallim. & A.B. Jacks., but there is extensive overlap in variation with trees from other parts of the range.Some botanists treat Siberian spruce as a subspecies of Norway spruce, though in their typical forms, they are very distinct, the Siberian spruce having cones only 5–10 cm long, with smoothly rounded scales, and pubescent (hairy) shoots. Genetically Norway and Siberian spruces have turned out to be extremely similar and may be considered as two closely related subspecies of P. abies.Another spruce with smoothly rounded cone scales and hairy shoots occurs rarely in the Central Alps in eastern Switzerland. It is also distinct in having thicker, blue-green leaves. Many texts treat this as a variant of Norway spruce, but it is as distinct as many other spruces, and appears to be more closely related to Siberian spruce (Picea obovata), Schrenk's spruce (Picea schrenkiana) from central Asia and Morinda spruce (Picea smithiana) in the Himalaya. Treated as a distinct species, it takes the name Alpine spruce (Picea alpestris (Brügger) Stein). As with Siberian spruce, it hybridises extensively with Norway spruce; pure specimens are rare. Hybrids are commonly known as Norwegian spruce, which should not be confused with the pure species Norway spruce.

    Synonyms

    Picea abies (L.) H. Karst is the accepted name of this species. More than 150 synonyms of Picea abies have been published.Homotypic synonyms of Picea abies are:Pinus abies L.Abies picea Mill.Pinus pyramidalis Salisb.Pinus abies subsp. vulgaris VossAbies abies (L.) DruceSome heterotypic synonyms of Picea abies are:

    Cultivars

    Several cultivars have been selected for garden use; they are occasionally traded under the obsolete scientific name Picea excelsa (an illegitimate name). The following cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:'Little gem''Nidiformis'

  • Swiss Stone Pine

    Pinus cembra L.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Uses

    Beds and furniture made of the very aromatic smelling Pinus cembra wood are very popular within the Alpine region of Europe. A scientific study of Joanneum Research in 2003 has shown that exposure to a Swiss Stone Pine may improve sleep by saving you up to 3,500 heart beats per night making nights more restful and restorative. The aromatic Pinus cembra wood is said to be antibacterial as well. Some studies also indicate that beds made of Swiss Stone Pine may tend to reduce meteorsensitivity (see external link 3 and 4).The Swiss pine is a popular ornamental tree in parks and large gardens, giving steady though not fast growth on a wide range of sites where the climate is cold. It is very tolerant of severe winter cold, hardy down to at least −50 °C (−58 °F), and also of wind exposure. The seeds are also harvested and sold as pine nuts. Pine cones cut into slices are used to flavor Schnapps, which is then sold as "Zirbenschnaps" or "Zirbeler" Schnapps. (see Ref. 2).The wood is the most used for carvings in Val Gardena since the 17th century. The cone of the Swiss pine was the field sign of the Roman legion stationed in Rhaetia in 15 BC, and hence it is used as the heraldic charge (known as Zirbelnuss in German) in the coat of arms of the city of Augsburg, the site of the Roman fort Augusta Vindelicorum.It is also a species that is often used in bonsai.

  • Dwarf Mountain Pine

    Pinus mugo Turra

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Distribution

    Pinus mugo is native to the Pyrenees, Alps, Erzgebirge, Carpathians, northern Apennines, and higher Balkan Peninsula mountains. It is usually found from 1,000–2,200 m (3,281–7,218 ft), occasionally as low as 200 m (656 ft) in the north of the range in Germany and Poland, and as high as 2,700 m (8,858 ft) in the south of the range in Bulgaria and the Pyrenees.Pinus mugo was planted in coastal Denmark for sand dune stabilization. It has naturalized and become invasive.

    Subspecies

    There are three subspecies:Pinus mugo subsp. mugo — in the east and south of the range (southern & eastern Alps, Balkan Peninsula), a low, shrubby, often multi-stemmed plant to 3–6 m (10–20 ft) tall with symmetrical cones.Pinus mugo subsp. uncinata — in the west and north of the range (from the Pyrenees northeast to Poland), a larger, usually single-stemmed tree to 20 m (66 ft) tall with asymmetrical cones (the scales are much thicker on one side of the cone than the other).Some botanists treat the western subspecies as a separate species, Pinus uncinata, others as only a variety, Pinus mugo var. rostrata. This subspecies in the Pyrenees marks the alpine tree line or timberline, the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing.Pinus mugo subsp. rotundata — hybrid subspecies, of the two subspecies above that intergrade extensively in the western Alps and northern Carpathians.Both subspecies have similar foliage, with dark green leaves ("needles") in pairs, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long.The cones are nut-brown, 2.5–5.5 cm (0.98–2.17 in) long: and in subsp. mugo are symmetrical, thin-scaled and matt textured; and in subsp. uncinata are asymmetrical with thick scales on the upper side of the cone, thin on the lower side, and glossy textured.An old name for the species Pinus montana is still occasionally seen, and a typographical error "mugho" (first made in a prominent 18th century encyclopedia) is still repeated surprisingly often.

    Uses

    Cultivation

    Pinus mugo is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, for use as a small tree or shrub, planted in gardens and in larger pots and planters. It is also used in Japanese garden style landscapes, and for larger bonsai specimens.

    Cultivars

    Culinary use

    A recent trend is the increase in use of the mugo pine in cooking. Buds and young cones are harvested from the wild in the spring and left to dry in the sun over the summer and into the fall. The cones and buds gradually drip syrup, which is then boiled down to a concentrate and combined with sugar to make pine syrup. Menus also use the terms "pinecone syrup" or "pine cone syrup" to refer to this ingredient.

    Invasive species

    Pinus mugo is classed as a wilding conifer, an invasive species that spreads in the high country of New Zealand, in coastal Denmark and other Scandinavian areas.

    Gallery

    Sources

    Christensen, K. I. (1987). Taxonomic revision of the Pinus mugo complex and P. × rhaetica (P. mugo × sylvestris) (Pinaceae). Nordic J. Bot. 7: 383-408.

  • Scots Pine

    Pinus sylvestris L.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Botany

    Pinus sylvestris is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 35 m in height and 1 m trunk diameter when mature, exceptionally over 45 metres (148 ft) tall and 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) trunk diameter on very productive sites, the tallest on record being a more than 210-year-old tree growing in Estonia which stands at 46.6 m (152 ft 11 in).The bark is thick, scaly dark grey-brown on the lower trunk, and thin, flaky and orange on the upper trunk and branches. The habit of the mature tree is distinctive due to its long, bare and straight trunk topped by a rounded or flat-topped mass of foliage. The lifespan is normally 150–300 years, with the oldest recorded specimens in Lapland, Northern Finland over 760 years.The shoots are light brown, with a spirally arranged scale-like pattern. On mature trees the leaves ('needles') are a glaucous blue-green, often darker green to dark yellow-green in winter, 2.5–5 cm (1–2 in) long and 1–2 mm (1⁄32–3⁄32 in) broad, produced in fascicles of two with a persistent grey 5–10 mm (1⁄4–3⁄8 in) basal sheath. On vigorous young trees the leaves can be twice as long, and occasionally occur in fascicles of three or four on the tips of strong shoots. Leaf persistence varies from two to four years in warmer climates, and up to nine years in subarctic regions. Seedlings up to one year old bear juvenile leaves; these are single (not in pairs), 2–3 cm (3⁄4–1 1⁄4 in) long, flattened, with a serrated margin.The seed cones are red at pollination, then pale brown, globose and 4–8 mm (5⁄32–5⁄16 in) diameter in their first year, expanding to full size in their second year, pointed ovoid-conic, green, then grey-green to yellow-brown at maturity, 3–7.5 cm (1 1⁄8–3 in) long. The cone scales have a flat to pyramidal apophysis, with a small prickle on the umbo. The seeds are blackish, 3–5 mm (1⁄8–3⁄16 in) in length with a pale brown 12–20 mm (15⁄32–25⁄32 in) wing and are released when the cones open in spring 22–24 months after pollination. The pollen cones are yellow, occasionally pink, 8–12 mm (5⁄16–15⁄32 in) long; pollen release is in mid to late spring.

    Taxonomy

    Over 100 Pinus sylvestris varieties have been described in the botanical literature, but only three or four are now accepted. They differ only minimally in morphology, but with more pronounced differences in genetic analysis and resin composition. Populations in westernmost Scotland are genetically distinct from those in the rest of Scotland and northern Europe, but not sufficiently to have been distinguished as a separate botanical variety. Trees in the far north of the range were formerly sometimes treated as var. lapponica, but the differences are clinal and it is not genetically distinct.Pinus sylvestris var. sylvestris. The bulk of the range, from Scotland and Spain to central Siberia. Described above.Pinus sylvestris var. hamata Steven. The Balkans, northern Turkey, Crimea, and the Caucasus. Foliage more consistently glaucous all year, not becoming duller in winter; cones more frequently with a pyramidal apophysis.Pinus sylvestris var. mongolica Litv. Mongolia and adjoining parts of southern Siberia and northwestern China. Foliage duller green, shoots grey-green; leaves occasionally up to 12 cm long.Pinus sylvestris var. nevadensis D.H.Christ. The Sierra Nevada in southern Spain and possibly other Spanish populations (not considered distinct from var. sylvestris by all authors) Kalenicz. Ex Kom. Cones often with thicker scales, but doubtfully distinguishable on morphology.Pinus sylvestris var. cretacea Kalenicz. ex Kom. From border regions between Russia and Ukraine.

    Distribution

    Scots pine is the only pine native to northern Europe, forming either pure forests or alongside Norway spruce, common juniper, silver birch, European rowan, Eurasian aspen and other hardwood species. In central and southern Europe, it occurs with numerous additional species, including European black pine, mountain pine, Macedonian pine, and Swiss pine. In the eastern part of its range, it also occurs with Siberian pine among other trees.

    British Isles

    The tree spread across the British Isles after the Last Glacial Maximum. Pollen records show that pine was present locally in southern England by 9,000 years ago having entered from northeast France and that it had spread as far north as the Lake District and North Pennines 500 years later.It was present in Ireland over 8,800 years ago but absent from Wales at that time which suggests that Scots pine in Ireland had a separate Iberian origin. Pine expanded into Scotland between 8,000 and 8,500 years ago either from an independent refuge, from Scandinavia (via ‘Doggerland’) or from Ireland. As the climate warmed it became extinct from most of the British Isles around 5,500 years ago except in Scotland and at Kielder, Northumberland.The Irish and western Scottish populations went through a massive decline around 4,000 years ago which ultimately led to the extinction of the Irish population between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago. It was replaced by large areas of blanket bog in western Scotland and Ireland though the reasons for its decline and extinction in England are not clear, but it may have been influenced by human activities.In Britain it now occurs naturally only in Scotland. Historical and archaeological records indicate that it also occurred in Wales and England until about 300–400 years ago, becoming extinct there due to over-exploitation and grazing; it has been re-introduced in these countries. Similar historical extinction and re-introduction applies to Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Whether it truly became extinct in England is unknown. It has been speculated that it may have survived wild long enough for trees used in cultivation in England to derive from native (rather than imported) sources. Shakespeare (in Richard II) was familiar with the species in the 1590s, as was Evelyn in the early 1660s (Sylva), both around the time when Scots pine was thought to become extinct in England, but when landowners were also beginning ornamental and forestry planting.The Scots pine formed much of the Caledonian Forest which once covered much of the Scottish Highland. Overcutting for timber demand, fire, overgrazing by sheep and deer, and even deliberate clearance to deter wolves have all been factors in the decline of this once great pine and birch forest. Only comparatively small areas (17,000 ha, only just over 1% of the estimated original 1,500,000 ha) of this ancient forest remain, the main surviving remnants being at Abernethy Forest, Glen Affric, Rothiemurchus Forest, and the Black Wood of Rannoch. Plans are currently in progress to restore at least some areas and work has started at key sites.Additionally, the Scots pine is the plant badge of Clan Gregor and has been proposed as the national tree of Scotland

    Cultivation and uses

    Scots pine is an important tree in forestry. The wood is used for pulp and sawn timber products. A seedling stand can be created by planting, sowing, or natural regeneration. Commercial plantation rotations vary between 50 and 120 years, with longer rotations in northeastern areas where growth is slower.In Scandinavian countries, Scots pine was used for making tar in the preindustrial age. Some active tar producers still exist, but mostly the industry has ceased. The pine has also been used as a source of rosin and turpentine.The wood is pale brown to red-brown, and used for general construction work. It has a dry density around 470 kg/m3 (varying with growth conditions), an open porosity of 60%, a fibre saturation point of 0.25 kg/kg, and a saturation moisture content of 1.60 kg/kg. Scots pine fibres are used to make the textile known as vegetable flannel, which has a hemp-like appearance, but with a tighter, softer texture.Scots pine has also been widely planted in New Zealand and much of the colder regions of North America; it was one of the first trees introduced to North America, in about 1600. It is listed as an invasive species in some areas there, including Ontario, Michigan and Wisconsin. It has been widely used in the United States for the Christmas tree trade, and was one of the most popular Christmas trees from the 1950s through the 1980s. It remains popular for that usage, though it has been eclipsed in popularity, by such species as Fraser fir, Douglas-fir, and others. Despite its invasiveness in parts of eastern North America, Scots pine does not often grow well there, partly due to climate and soil differences between its native habitat and that of North America, and partly due to damage by pests and diseases; the tree often grows in a twisted, haphazard manner if not tended to (as they are in the Christmas tree trade). Scots pines may be killed by the pine wood nematode, which causes pine wilt disease. The nematode most often attacks trees that are at least ten years old and often kills trees it infects within a few weeks.Several cultivars are grown for ornamental purposes in parks and large gardens, of which 'Beuvronensis' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

    Names

    In the past (before the 18th century), this species was more often known as "Scots fir" or "Scotch fir".Other names sometimes used include Riga pine and Norway pine, and Mongolian pine for var. mongolica. "Scotch pine" is another variant of the common name, used mostly in North America.The timber from it is also called red deal or yellow deal.Another name, although less common, is European redwood.

  • Silver Fir

    Abies alba Mill.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Description

    Abies alba is a large evergreen coniferous tree growing to 40–50 metres (130–160 ft) (exceptionally 60 metres (200 ft)) tall and with a trunk diameter of up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in). The largest measured tree was 68 m tall and had a trunk diameter of 3.8 metres (12 ft). It occurs at altitudes of 300–1,700 metres (980–5,580 ft) (mainly over 500 metres (1,600 ft)), on mountains with a rainfall of over 1,000 millimetres (39 in).The leaves are needle-like, flattened, 1.8–3 centimetres (0.71–1.18 in) long and 2 millimetres (0.079 in) wide by 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in) thick, glossy dark green above, and with two greenish-white bands of stomata below. The tip of the leaf is usually slightly notched at the tip. The cones are 9–17 centimetres (3.5–6.7 in) long and 3–4 centimetres (1.2–1.6 in) broad, with about 150-200 scales, each scale with an exserted bract and two winged seeds; they disintegrate when mature to release the seeds. The wood is white, leading to the species name "alba".It tends to forms woods with other firs and beeches. It is closely related to Bulgarian fir (Abies borisiiregis) further to the southeast in the Balkan Peninsula, Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo) of Spain and Morocco and Sicilian fir (Abies nebrodensis) in Sicily, differing from these and other related Euro-Mediterranean firs in the sparser foliage, with the leaves spread either side of the shoot, leaving the shoot readily visible from above. Some botanists treat Bulgarian fir and Sicilian fir as varieties of silver fir, as A. alba var. acutifolia and A. alba var. nebrodensis respectively.

    Ecology

    Silver fir is an important component species in the Dinaric calcareous Silver Fir forest in the western Balkan Peninsula.Its cone scales are eaten by the caterpillars of the tortrix moth Cydia illutana, while C. duplicana feeds on the bark around injuries or canker.

    Chemistry

    The bark and wood of silver fir are rich in antioxidative polyphenols. Six phenolic acids were identified (gallic, homovanillic, protocatehuic, p-hydroxybenzoic, vanillic and p-coumaric), three flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin and catechin tetramethyl eter) and four lignans (taxiresinol, 7-(2-methyl-3,4-dihydroxytetrahydropyran-5-yloxy)-taxiresinol, secoisolariciresinol and laricinresinol).

    Uses

    A resinous essential oil can be extracted. This pine-scented oil has soothing qualities, and is used in perfumes, bath products, and aerosol inhalants. Its branches (including the leaves, bark and wood) were used for production of spruce beer. The extract from the trunk was shown to prevent atherosclerosis and to have cardioprotective effect. Silver fir wood extract was found to reduce the post-prandial glycemic response (concentration of sugar in the blood after the meal). Silver fir is the species first used as a Christmas tree, but has been largely replaced by Nordmann fir (which has denser, more attractive foliage), Norway spruce (which is much cheaper to grow), and other species. The wood is strong, lightweight, light-coloured, finegrained, even-textured and longfibered. The timber is mainly used as construction wood, furniture, plywood, pulpwood and paper manufacture.

  • European Larch

    Larix decidua Mill.

    Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Description

    Larix decidua is a medium-size to large deciduous coniferous tree reaching 25–45 m tall, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter (exceptionally, to 55 m tall and 2 m diameter). The crown is conic when young, becoming broad with age; the main branches are level to upswept, with the side branches often pendulous. The shoots are dimorphic, with growth divided into long shoots (typically 10–50 cm long) and bearing several buds, and short shoots only 1–2 mm long with only a single bud. The leaves are needle-like, light green, 2–4 cm long which turn bright yellow before they fall in the autumn, leaving the pale yellow-buff shoots bare until the next spring.The cones are erect, ovoid-conic, 2–6 cm long, with 10-90 erect or slightly incurved (not reflexed) seed scales; they are green variably flushed red when immature, turning brown and opening to release the seeds when mature, 4–6 months after pollination. The old cones commonly remain on the tree for many years, turning dull grey-black.It is very cold tolerant, able to survive winter temperatures down to at least -50 °C, and is among the tree line trees in the Alps, reaching 2400 m altitude, though most abundant from 1000–2000 m. It only grows on well-drained soils, avoiding waterlogged ground and is not shade tolerant.

    Cultivation

    It is thought to have been first cultivated in Britain in 1629. John Evelyn encouraged its wider planting and use. Three successive Dukes of Atholl planted it widely and the fourth Duke wrote "Observations on Larch" in 1807 encouraging further its cultivation, which he practiced on a large scale.European larch is widely cultivated in southern Canada and the northeastern United States. It has been naturalized in Maine, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. In the northern Appalachian Mountains it is often used for the reforestation of surface mines. European larch can grow on drier soils and tolerate warmer climates than the native tamarack, being better suited to non-boreal climates.

    Subspecies

    There are two subspecies:Larix decidua subsp. decidua - European larch or Alpine larch. Most of the range, except as below. Cones 2.5–6 cm; shoots yellow-buff.Larix decidua subsp. polonica - Polish larch. Disjunct in lowland northern Poland. Cones 2–3 cm; shoots very pale yellow-buff, almost white.

    Uses

    L. decidua is cultivated as an ornamental tree for planting in gardens and parks.WoodThe wood is tough and durable, but also flexible in thin strips, and is particularly valued for yacht building; wood used for this must be free of knots, and can only be obtained from old trees that were pruned when young to remove side branches.Small larch poles are widely used for rustic fencing.OtherBecause of its fast juvenile growth and its pioneer character, larch has found numerous applications in forestry and agroforestry. It is used as a ‘preparatory species’ to afforest open land, abandoned farmland or disturbed land and as a ‘nurse species’ prior to the introduction of more demanding species.

    Bonsai

    The European larch is a popular bonsai species, with many unique specimens available in European circles, and is popularly used in bonsai forest groups.

    Ecology

    The seeds are an important food for some birds, notably siskin, lesser redpoll and citril finch, while the buds and immature cones are eaten by capercaillie.See also List of Lepidoptera that feed on larchesEuropean larch needles are the only known food for caterpillars of the case-bearer moth Coleophora sibiricella; its cone scales are used as food by the caterpillars of the tortrix moth Cydia illutana.

    Invasive species

    L. decidua is classed as a wilding conifer, an invasive species which spreads into the high country of New Zealand. It was planted by the New Zealand Forest Service for erosion control.

    Larix decidua