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  Wildflowers - Flora / Trees of Provence / Larch

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Larch

Larix decidua     Fr: Mélèze


Gallery of 2 photos for Larch

The larch (featured in a classic Monty Python sketch) is a deciduous connifer: it loses its leaves in the autumn. In the South of France, the larch grows on mountain slopes above about 1400 m, where it often covers entire slopes, and it's the dominant tree at those altitudes. The larch tends to be tall and conical, tapering up to a point at the top. The branches often have a sort of double curve, drooping down from the trunk and then curving up towards the ends.

Just above Roubion (between St. Sauveur-sur-Tinée and Beuil) the mountains are thickly forested with Larch, at just over 1400 m altitude. Below here, the forests are mainly Scots pine.

While other connifers acidify the soil with their dropped needles, the larch needles put calcium into the soil. This encourages the growth of underbrush, including blueberries and raspberries. The French even have a special name for a forest of larch: mélèzein or mélèzin.

You might now see larch forests with large patches turning orange-brown. There is a certain insect (coléophore in French) that attacks this tree and eats about half the needles. The needles dry up and fall off, to be replaced in August by new needles, ready to turn brown for autumn. This summer of 1995 seems to have been a particularly bad year. The larch isn't in real danger, however. It would take five or six years of successive insect attack to overcome the tree's natural vitality.

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