Larches vs. Cedars

Difference Between Larches And Cedars Larches are one of the few nonevergreen conifers. They lose their needlelike leaves…

Difference Between Larches And Cedars

Larches are one of the few nonevergreen conifers. They lose their needlelike leaves each fall. An attractive light green, the short needles are considerably softer than those of other conifers. They grow in thick clusters of 10 to 30 needles on the tips of short spurs on branches and the tree’s trunk. They also grow singly, in circles around young green twigs.

The larch’s overall shape is that of a tapering cone. Its seed cones often hang from the tree for several years before falling to the ground. Larch wood is strong, hard, and heavy, and has long been used for telephone poles, mine braces, and railroad ties. Scientists recognize 10 to 12 species of larches, all of them native to the cooler parts of the Northern Hemisphere. One species, Larix griffithi, grows only in the Himalayas. The most widely distributed American larch is the tamarack, or eastern larch (L. laricina), distinguished by its gray to reddish-brown bark. Tamaracks mature slowly, growing up to 70 feet (21 meters) tall over a life span of 100 to 200 years. Their western cousin is the western larch (L. occidentalis) of the Pacific Northwest, which grows slightly faster and taller. Popular ornamental larches include the domesticated Japanese larch (L. leptolepis) and European larch (L. decidua).


Three of the four living species of true cedars are native to the Mediterranean. Their fragrant, red-tinged wood was so valued in ancient times that cedars were all but annihilated thousands of years ago. Today they survive only in scattered groves. Cedars grow to be massive trees with thick trunks and gigantic crowns of irregularly shaped branches. A smooth, dark-gray bark covers the trunk of young cedars. With age, it turns brown and becomes deeply fissured and scaled. Unusual, three-sided needles grow scattered along young twigs. Older branches bear thick tufts of needles at the tips of short spurs. The large green or purple seed cones have overlapping scales, each with a clawlike spike.

The best-known species is the cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), which reaches heights of more than 125 feet (38 meters). Also native to the Mediterranean is the Atlas cedar (C. atlantica) of North Africa, and the Cyprian cedar (C. brevifolia). The Himalayan deodar (C. deodara) remains an important timber tree in its native India. Cedar wood is especially popular for building (or lining) closets and clothes chests. Its fragrant resins and oils are said to discourage insect pests, such as destructive moths. Its oil is also used as perfume.



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