Larix lyallii

Today’s write-up and photographs of Larix lyallii are courtesy of Bryant, BPotD work-study student. He writes:

These subalpine (or alpine) larches were photographed on the northeast face of Mount Frosty in British Columbia’s E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Larix lyallii is one of my personal favorites for its unusual characteristics and its ability to survive higher altitudes and harsher conditions than most other conifers. Larix is one of the few genera of deciduous conifers (other deciduous conifers). In early/mid-September through early/mid-October in British Columbia, this species changes colour from green to a stunning golden-yellow. Larix lyallii grows in upper montane zones that would otherwise be considered alpine tundra (usually above the treeline of evergreen conifers), as well as on exposed rock outcrops. Its native range follows high alpine environments in southern (primarily southeast) British Columbia, southwestern Alberta and northern Washington, Idaho and Montana (distribution map).

Although trees of Larix lyallii are stunted by the long and harsh winters they endure, their trunks typically remain straight and upright (compared to displaying characteristics of Krummholz formation often seen among subalpine evergreen conifers). This is largely due to the deciduous characteristic, which helps to reduce the effects of winter desiccation and snow loading. The extreme hardiness of this species has helped it to become one of the longer lived species of conifer, with the known record holder being an individual 1,917 years old in Kananaskis, Alberta as of 2012!

Morphologically, Larix lyallii can grow up to 31m tall with a diameter at breast height of 215cm. As one might expect, larger specimens are generally found at lower elevations. The needles are quadrangular and grow in bunches of 30-40 atop abaxially keeled short shoots. They tend to grow in moist immature/rocky soil that is well drained. Plants grow at elevations between 1,900 and 2,380 metres, with slightly lower elevations in the North Cascades (1,830 to 2290m). Larix lyallii may also grow in association with Pinus albicaulis (whitebark pine), Abies lasiocarpa (subalpine fir), and Picea engelmannii (Englemann spruce) at the upper limits of their elevational distributions.

Larix lyallii
Larix lyallii

13 responses to “Larix lyallii”

  1. Linda

    We always called these Tamarack around southern BC, now I know more about the proper names! Such beauty in the woods this time of year.

  2. Hallie Anderson

    Stunning photograph!! Took my breath away this morning!

  3. Irma in Sweden

    Stunning photos!
    Here in Sweden I have seen a most wonderful made out of Siberian lark and keeping both kinds of wood with dark red heartwood and very bright Yellow outer wood. The planks were also sawn as the tree had grown. All in alla it was magnificient!

  4. Richard Old

    This article was extremely well written and informative. It looks like you have been fortunate in your selection of work-study students, as I know many post-docs who could not have done it as well!

  5. Jonathan

    Really loved the specific discussion of the straightness versus the Krummholz formation. I love reading about plant “strategies” and how they play out in the harsh world.

  6. elizabeth a airhart

    not more blue at the dawn of the world
    not more virgin or more gay
    never in all the million years
    was the sea happier then to-day
    the sand was not more trackless then
    morning more stanless or more cold
    only the forest and fields
    know that the year is old sara teasdale american
    thank you sir fine picture of the day

  7. Wendy Cutler

    What everyone already said. And what stunning photos. OK, someone said that too. I can’t get over that first one, with the grey rocks and the sun seeming to be shining just on those trees.

  8. Richard Koepsel

    Excellent photo, even better blurb

  9. Lindsay in Hawaii

    I must heartily agree with the rest, these photos are stunning, the first one in particular. I really enjoy seeing the pictures and reading about the plants and trees from other places in the world. The tropical foliage that I see daily here in hawaii is such a small fraction of all the amazing trees, plants, fungi etc.that are out there. Thank you so much for expanding my world just a bit with each posting, I always look forward to them.

  10. Denis

    I really came to appreciate these trees one year about this time when I had to drive from Wallula, Washington to Burlington, Washington for work. I had the luck to drive Interstate 90 through Snoqualmie Pass during their peak fall color. The larches were mixed with dark evergreen conifers and the contrast between their dark greens and bluish greens with the brilliant yellows of the larches remains a vivid memory.

  11. Denis

    I really came to appreciate these trees one year about this time when I had to drive from Wallula, Washington to Burlington, Washington for work. I had the luck to drive Interstate 90 through Snoqualmie Pass during their peak fall color. The larches were mixed with dark evergreen conifers and the contrast between their dark greens and bluish greens with the brilliant yellows of the larches remains a vivid memory.

  12. Lori Skulski

    Interesting article and haunting pictures of a sparse growth of larches.
    The author might be interested to know that the Wikipedia entry seems to use an incorrect term… it probably intends to refer to kruppelholz (stunted growth due to environmental conditions), as opposed to krummholz (trees that are stunted and bent due to genetic reasons).
    (See Ref. Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, Ben Gadd)

  13. Melissa in South Carolina

    IRMA IN SWEDEN! You were typing too fast! What item did you see made from the Siberian larch? I’m really wondering – and wish you had a photo to share… DANIEL, On today’s submission, not only gorgeous photos, excellent blurb, but the running commentary was great, too. Some days people really get into it. Interesting bit about Krummholz vs. Kruppelholz. Some time spent in the Colorado Rockies really showed up the Kruppelholz effect – so many trees short and twisted at those high elevations, the wind and the soil creating trees of vast, strange beauty. Thank You! [Still bummed that I missed you when you made your Carolina trip.]

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