European Larch, Larix decidua. The Larch abounds on the Alps up to an altitude of 5,000 feet, and occurs on the Apennines and Carpathians, but is unknown in a wild state on the Pyrenees, or in the Spanish or Scandinavian peninsulas. Though it grows well on a limestone subsoil, it is on sloping mountain sides, where the oldest rocks of the earth's crust crumble into crystalline fragments over some brawling beck that tumbles through the glen, that the Larch is seen in its greatest beauty. The regularly-tapering stem, with its scaly, reddish-grey bark, so prone to become covered with the shaggy tufts of hoary lichen, then loses its stiff, erect posture, curving in a direction slightly sinuous, as well as oblique.
The genus Larix, to which the Larch (L. europaea) belongs, is distinguished among Firs by its deciduous foliage, and the whole joyousness of spring seems heralded and epitomized in the emerald glory of its April frondescence. The light-green needles appear in tufts, as they do also in the evergreen Cedars, upon the old wood of the slender branches, surrounding the extremities of "dwarf shoots," which gradually lengthen out, until, as on the youngest shoots, each needle stands alone as one of a spiral series.
The Larch was not apparently known to the Greeks; but, being abundant on the Apennines, Pliny often refers to it, speaking of the incorruptible and incombustible nature of its timber. But next to its timber, the most important product of the Larch is undoubtedly Venice turpentine. This turpentine takes the name of Venice from being shipped from that port.
"...and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire, with wide glades among them; and everywhere there was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs . . . fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf,...Ithilien...kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.” ..." [Back to Herblore]