An Eco-sustainable World
ArborealSpecies Plant

Larix lyallii

Larix lyallii

The subalpine larch or alpine larch (Larix lyallii Parl.) Is an arboreal species belonging to the Pinaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota Domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Pinophyta Division,
Pinopsida class,
Order Pinales,
Pinaceae family,
Genus Larix,
L. lyallii species.
The term is synonymous:
– Pinus lyallii (Parl.) Parl..

Etymology –
The term Larix comes from the Latin name of the larch, assonant with the Greek term λᾶρός láros pleasant, referring to the aroma.
The specific epithet lyallii is in honor of David Lyall who apparently discovered it between 1858 and 1861.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Larix lyallii is a deciduous conifer native to western North America, in an area between Canada and the United States, where it lives at very high altitudes (on average 1520-2440 m with a maximum of 3020 m.
It is found in the cold-temperate mountainous areas of Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta. It rarely goes below 1980 m, even if it is present, in particularly suitable areas, up to 1370 m. There is also a disjoint population in the northern part of the Cascade Range located in the State of Washington (USA) and in British Columbia (Canada).
The species is protected in the North Cascades National Park (United States) and in Banff National Park (Canada).
Its habitat is in subalpine to alpine areas, often on north-facing slopes where snow remains until late in the season.
The two habitats are separated by about 200 km of distance and coincide with the absence of suitable habitat. The distribution on the Cascade Range is considered a separate nucleus of the main population, as it is present in smaller quantities. The current range reflects the latest post-glacial dynamisms and the migrations that this species has carried out starting from glacial refuges.
Larix lyallii shares the habitat with Abies lasiocarpa, Pinus albicaulis and Picea engelmannii towards which it often appears as an ecologically dominant species. The undergrowth that develops in the growth areas includes Phyllodoce empetriformis, Luzula hitchcockii and Vaccinium scoparium.

Description –
Larix lyallii is a small arboreal conifer that grows from 10 to 25 meters in height and, to a lesser extent, at higher altitudes.
The bark is about 2.5 cm thin, turns from yellow-gray to dark red-brown with age and also becomes deeply furrowed in small scaly plates.
The trunk is straight with a sparse and somewhat conical crown.
The branches are horizontal, perpendicular to the trunk, irregularly spaced and twisted. The twigs are finely hairy.
The needles are four-angled, 20 to 35 millimeters long and crowded in groups of 30 to 40 on short spurs; they are blue-green, deciduous and turn golden yellow in autumn.
Female cones are 2.5 to 4 centimeters long, red-purple in color when young but dark brown with age. They have thin scales and narrow bracts that extend over the scales.
Male cones become active in early summer.

Cultivation –
Larix lyallii is a conifer resistant to rather cold climates and is able to survive the low temperatures of high altitude areas. It adapts to rocky soils of reduced thickness, which is why the tree manages to reach the upper subalpine and alpine limit of the arboreal vegetation. However, this larch can grow in a multitude of varieties of soils, even more evolved ones, in unshaded areas as long as the substrate is humid but well drained. To vegetate in the best possible way, this tree needs areas rich in water, whose bioavailability in its growth environment is however severely limited by the physical state in which it occurs for most of the year (ice) and by the form in which it arrives. majority on the ground (snow). The climate of the native areas is characterized by the presence of long and cold winters. For this reason, like all larches, it has developed the characteristic, atypical among conifers, of losing their leaves in autumn, thus avoiding that the water present in them freezes, damaging the soft tissues and thus facilitating a better survival of the species. .
It can survive in marshy soils with acidic pH. Colonized sites are generally poor or very poor, as low temperatures and acidic environment do not favor microbial growth and the correct accumulation of organic matter in the soil. These are therefore thin, rich in skeleton and with appreciable clayey and / or silty components, in the presence of acid pH ranging from 3.9 to 5.7.
During the Pleistocene the areas now occupied by the subalpine larch were entirely covered by glaciers, which melted about 12,000 years ago, reducing to occupy today’s spaces. The cold climate that still characterizes the high altitudes does not favor pedogenesis either towards the biotic component or with regard to inorganic chemical reactions. In dry places, Larix lyallii is found near glacial watercourses or percolation sites. It adapts well to the volcanic soils of the Cascade Range, which are usually well differentiated in layers and with a very acid pH. Larix lyallii has poor shade tolerance (heliophilic species) requiring, in order to carry out photosynthesis correctly, a higher quantity of light than other high altitude conifers and consequently does not develop well under cover even if it shows a high competitiveness towards the other species.
This conifer renews well after fires, avalanches, or other natural disturbances. On some occasions it can colonize burnt areas as a pioneer within the area occupied by Abies lasiocarpa, below the usual altitude limits. This regenerative tendency is favored by northern exposures and by high side altitudes.
Propagation occurs by seed.
Sowing must be carried out in areas with a suitable climate at the end of winter in an unheated smenzaio. Cold stratification of one month helps germination. After germination it is recommended to lightly shade the young seedlings
When the seedlings have reached the manageable size they should be placed in individual pots.
Transplanting, even if the seedlings have reached a few inches in height, can be done in the summer, providing them with effective weed-free mulch and preferably winter protection for their first year. Otherwise it is recommended to grow them in an unheated greenhouse for their first winter and transplant in the early summer of the following year. The seed remains viable for 3 years.

Customs and Traditions –
Larix lyallii appears to have been discovered by David Lyall between 1858 and 1861.
It was classified and systematically described for the first time by the Italian botanist Filippo Parlatore on November 3, 1863. John Bernhard Leiberg then described it in 1900.
For this larch there are no known subspecies, varieties or particular forms: it is assumed that the restricted environmental tolerances, the long reproductive cycle and the restricted geographic-altitudinal distribution may have limited the possibilities of development of the genetic variation.
Most likely it is a relict species, which once occupied a much larger area than today. At lower altitudes it loses competitiveness to the detriment of other conifers due to the deciduous foliage that does not allow it to carry out photosynthesis and the consequent growth during the winter period.
The small size reached compared to other conifers and the contiguous Larix occidentalis, the distribution limited to a narrow range and the growth at the upper limit of the arboreal vegetation do not give any commercial importance to this larch, also having poor technological qualities due to the frequent deformations of the stems caused by the strong winds that beat the high mountain areas where it grows. The development at such high altitudes and the widespread area in inaccessible areas of the American continent have in fact excluded to date an economic advantage for the forest exploitation of this species. The only possible use (amateur and secondary) of its hard, heavy and durable two-tone wood is as a fuel, discreet however due to the resin contained which in the long run can smear the chimney with soot. The annual increase of a Larix lyallii larch forest has been estimated to be only 0.7-1.4 m3 / Ha on sites with a high average productivity. Despite this, the wood has good qualities like other larch trees and a pleasant appearance due to the pinkish color of the heartwood and yellowish white of the sapwood.
Larix lyallii is a long-lived conifer, thanks to the slow growth that the rigid high mountain environment requires. The longevity record belongs to a specimen discovered in Kananaskis, Alberta, 1917 years old in 2012.
From an ecological point of view it is a plant that provides good food and shelter for many species of birds and mammals.
Larix lyallii seeds, bark, and needles are an important source of sustenance, especially for goats, deer, grizzly bears, and squirrels. Among the birds, the Dendragapus are the ones that make the most of larch seeds, which represent one of the most important summer foods for this genus. The larch forests also act as a watershed line for various animal species between the mountain and subalpine environments and between the subalpine and upper environments.

Preparation Method –
Larix lyallii is a conifer that is not of particular interest, for what has been said, for its timber, if not for very limited uses.
There are also no known uses or uses of food or medicine.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
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Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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