Larix kaempferi

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Japanese larch
Bark and leaves
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Gymnospermae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Family: Pinaceae
Genus: Larix
L. kaempferi
Binomial name
Larix kaempferi

Larix kaempferi, the Japanese larch[2] or karamatsu (唐松) in Japanese, is a species of larch native to Japan, in the mountains of Chūbu and Kantō regions in central Honshū.[3]

It is a medium-sized to large deciduous coniferous tree reaching 20–40 m tall, with a trunk up to 1 m diameter. The crown is broad conic; both the main branches and the side branches are level, the side branches only rarely drooping. The shoots are dimorphic, with growth divided into long shoots (typically 10–50 cm long) and bearing several buds, and short shoots only 1–2 mm long with only a single bud. The leaves are needle-like, light glaucous green, 2–5 cm long; they turn bright yellow to orange before they fall in the autumn, leaving the pinkish-brown shoots bare until the next spring.[3]

The cones are erect, ovoid-conic and 2–3.5 cm long, with 30–50 reflexed seed scales; they are green when immature, turning brown and opening to release the seeds when mature, 4–6 months after pollination. The old cones commonly remain on the tree for many years, turning dull grey-black.[3]

It grows at altitudes up to 2,900 m on well-drained soils, avoiding waterlogged ground.[citation needed]

The scientific name honours Engelbert Kaempfer. It is also sometimes known by the synonym Larix leptolepis.[4]


Japanese larch is an important tree in forestry plantations, being grown throughout central and northern Japan (north to Hokkaidō), and also widely in northern Europe, particularly Ireland and Britain. The wood is tough and durable, and is used for general construction work. Small larch poles are widely used for fencing.


Larix kaempferi is used for ornamental purposes in parks and gardens.[5] It is also widely used as material for bonsai.[6] The dwarf cultivars 'Blue Dwarf',[7] growing to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall and broad, and 'Nana',[8] growing to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall and broad, have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[9]


In late 2009 Phytophthora ramorum or sudden oak death disease was first found in Japanese larch trees, in the English counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.[10] The disease was found in Counties Waterford and Tipperary in Ireland the following year.[11]



  1. ^ Katsuki, T.; Luscombe, D (2013). "Larix kaempferi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T42312A2971556. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T42312A2971556.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  3. ^ a b c Farjon, A. (1990). Pinaceae. Drawings and Descriptions of the Genera. Koeltz Scientific Books ISBN 3-87429-298-3.
  4. ^ "The Plant List - species in Larix". London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2013.
  5. ^ "Larix kaempferi". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  6. ^ D'Cruz, Mark. "Ma-Ke Bonsai Care Guide for Larix kaempferi". Ma-Ke Bonsai. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  7. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Larix kaempferi 'Blue Dwarf'". Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  8. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Larix kaempferi 'Nana' Neumann". Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  9. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 58. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  10. ^ Forestry Commission webpage on Phytophthora ramorum
  11. ^ "Disease found in Japanese Larch Trees in Ireland". Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine. 17 August 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2014.

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