Larch Woods

Val Balanzola – CAI 540
(photo by: Enrico Vettorazzo)

The tree growing at the highest altitudes is the European or Common Larch (Larix decidua).
It is the only European conifer loosing its leaves after the foliage has turned yellow in autumn.
There are beautiful larch woods in Piani Eterni, Val del Melegaldo, on Monti del Sole, on Mt. Schiara, and in the Prampèr group, at altitudes varying from 1,700 to 1,900 meters a.s.l.
The undergrowth is characterized by the presence of rhododendrons and blackberry bushes; the branches and trunks of the larches are often covered with leafy lichens. On the wettest slopes there are larch woods with an undergrowth rich in tall grass (Megaphorbiae).
Some insects feed exclusively on larch needles. This is the case of the larvae of two small butterflies: the larch casebearer and the grey tortricid.
In larch woods live birds and mammals preferring thin wood formations with grassy land, old trees with cracked barks, and holes where to hide or nest. Among these birds, the tiny Treecreeper, the Mistle Thrush, and the Willow Tit.