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What Is Siberian Larch?

Dan Harkins
Updated May 16, 2024
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Siberian larch, or Larix sibirica, is one of a handful of larch species across the often-frigid northern hemisphere. Though this conifer can be found in 2011 around the globe, it still is largely contained to the forests of Eastern Siberia, where it makes up about 75 percent of the total tree population. Long prized in construction for its decay-resistant wood, this tree is also well-established as an herbal remedy that has recently gained scientific credence as an immune system booster.

In Russia about one of every two coniferous trees is a Siberian larch. That figure grows to about three in every four trees in East Siberia and other Baltic regions of Russia's northeastern territories. In other parts of the world, different larch species are more prominent. The European larch, or Larix decidua, is far more common in the Arctic regions there. Across the Atlantic Ocean in the western hemisphere, the American and western larches — L. laricina and L. occidentalis, respectively predominate.

In the United States, the Siberian larch is recommended for landscaping in only the United States Department of Agriculture's hardiness zone two. Mainly consisting of Alaska and parts of Minnesota, this region is marked by average minimum temperatures between -40 and -50°F (about -40 to -46°C). With moderately moist soil under full sun, these trees can grow as tall as about 60 feet (about 18 m). Though its stubby needles show green in warmer months, they turn brown and shed in fall, leaving the branches largely bare through winter.

Builders started using Siberian larch sometime during the Middle Ages, between the fifth and 15th centuries. Not only is the wood known for its density that beats out other hardwoods like pine and spruce, but its planks also hold their shape and function longer. The wood's most-touted attribute is a superior resistance to decay. All of these characteristics have led to this species being used for outdoor structures like bridges, dams, utility poles, railroad ties and fence posts.

Construction and landscaping are not the only uses for Siberian larch. For centuries, herbalists have prepared a tincture of larch bark that is rich in a compound called arabinogalactan. Though this extract has been used as a homeopathic diuretic, antibacterial agent and stimulant, its alleged immunity-boosting qualities appear to be of utmost interest to modern science. Some cellular research has indicated that larch bark may spur white blood cells into greater action, however, another study of lab rats refuted this by showing how white blood cells in bone marrow actually decreased in a week's time after daily arabinogalactan injections began.

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Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.
Discussion Comments
By candyquilt — On May 30, 2014

In addition to its use in herbal preparations, larch has also been used as a incense, especially in Europe. The bark was burned and the smoke used for protection from evil spirits.

In Siberia, Siberian larch was also used for religious ceremonies by shamanistic peoples. They used larch poles as the symbol of a mythical tree that had great significance in shamanistic belief.

So larch has always been an important tree and it has been used for many different purposes.

By fify — On May 30, 2014

@literally45-- Did you have any trouble during the construction process? Since it's so thick and dense, I heard that Siberian larch is very difficult to drill and mill. I heard it binds the machine that's used on it basically makes it inoperable again.

By literally45 — On May 29, 2014

I used Siberian larch to construct a fence for my yard and it worked very well. Siberian larch is very high quality. There are other types of larch lumber available, but Siberian is one of the best. It's very dense, strong and naturally waterproof. But it's still cheaper than some other high quality lumber like cedar. So I think I made the best choice.

Of course, it's still fairly new, so I'll have to see how it holds up. I think it's going to be fine though.

Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
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