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Exotic Conifers

European Larch
Larix decidua Miller

european-larch-larix-deciduaEuropean larch is native to the mountains of central Europe, from the Alps to south Poland, the Carpathians and Croatia. It was first introduced to Britain around 1620.

Site suitability
European Larch is an exacting species and requires at least moderate fertility and a moist free draining soil. Very wet or very dry soils should be avoided. European larch is a light demanding species and early vegetation control is extremely important. It also must be thinned early and frequently to allow for full crown development. European larch is regarded as a good nurse for broadleaved species and can often be found planted in mixture with Oak and Beech.



Wood

The timber of European larch is noted for its hardness, natural durability and strength. It is mainly used for outdoor work, including transmission poles, the exterior of buildings, fencing and for boat building.

Japanese Larch and Hybrid Larch
Larix kaempferi (Lamb.) Carriere/Larix x eurolepis Henry

japanese_larch_larix_kaempferi_branchesJapanese larch is native to a small region on the island of Honshu in Japan. It was introduced to Britain and Ireland in the late 1800's. Hybrid larch is a cross between European larch and Japanese larch. The first Hybrid larch was discovered in Scotland in 1904. Silviculturally, it is considered similar to Japanese larch, but in terms of growth it is superior to both European and Japanese larch.

Site suitability
Japanese and Hybrid larches are more accommodating than European larch and they thrive over a wide range of conditions. They do best however, on well drained, moist, moderately fertile soils which are not too heavy. The presence of dense bracken is often used as an indicator of a suitable site. Like European larch, Japanese and Hybrid larch are strong light demanders and vegetation control and early thinning are essential. All three larches have a high amenity value due to the fact that they are the only deciduous conifers commonly planted in Ireland. Hence, both Japanese and Hybrid larch are often planted in mixtures with Sitka spruce in order to soften the visual impact of the Spruce plantation.

Wood
Like European larch the wood of both Japanese and Hybrid larch is noted for its hardness, natural durability and strength. The timber is used in similar situations as European larch

Lodgepole Pine
Pinus contorta Dougl.

lodgepolengLodgepole pine is native to north west America. Its natural range extends from south-east Alaska and interior Yukon in the north to California in the south and extends eastwards over the Rocky and Cascade mountains as far as the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Site suitability
Lodgepole pine is an extremely undemanding species and is capable of growing on the poorest of sites, following appropriate ground preparation and phosphate application. It is much more tolerant of competition from heather than Sitka spruce and is often planted on sites where heather is likely to be a problem. It can also be planted as a nurse in mixture with Sitka spruce on these sites. It is a coarse and unattractive tree on good lowland sites, where several other species are much more productive.

Wood
The main use for Lodgepole pine timber in Ireland at the moment is for the manufacturer of Oriented Strand Board (OSB) and Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF). It is also used in the manufacture of fencing stakes and pallets and large, good quality logs can be used for structural purposes.

Douglas Fir
Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirbel) Franco

douglas-firDouglas fir is native to the Pacific coast of north America, from northern British Columbia to northern California, the Rocky Mountains and Mexico. It extends inland as far as Colorado and New Mexico.

Site suitability
Douglas fir is unsuited to heavy soils, where it exhibits very coarse growth and can often become very unstable, due to restricted rooting. For optimum growth it should be planted on middle valley slopes, with well-drained soils of good depth and moderate fertility. It will also grow well on lighter, sandier soils, where improved form may result, although growth will be slower.

Wood
Douglas fir produces a straight grained, naturally durable timber with a high strength to weight ratio. It is a popular outdoor timber and is used in the manufacture of garden furniture, boat building and also for log cabins. The majority of Douglas fir timber produced in Ireland is suitable for carpentry and structural work as well as transmission poles and fence posts.

Sitka Spruce
Picea sitchensis (Bongard) Carriere

sitka_spruceThe natural range of Sitka spruce is a narrow belt of the Pacific north west coast of North America, known as the 'fog belt'. It grows along this coast from Alaska, down through British Columbia, Washington and Oregon to California.

Site suitability
Sitka spruce is currently the most dominant species used in Irish forestry. It is relatively easily established and will grow productively under a wide range of conditions. It is capable of good growth in areas of high exposure and thrives on wet soils, though windthrow is a serious risk. Sitka spruce grows best on moist fertile soils under conditions of high humidity. Frost prone sites and very dry sites in low rainfall areas should be avoided.

Wood
The wood of both Sitka and Norway spruce is classified in the timber trade as 'white deal'. Sitka spruce timber is light in weight, non-resinous rather coarse textured and is liable to twist while drying. Because of its long fibres and pale colour it is suitable for use in fibreboard, strandboard and chipboard. Sitka spruce timber in Ireland is mainly used as building timber, fencing material, pallet manufacture, Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) and Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

Norway Spruce
Picea abies (L.) Karsten

norway-spruce-2Norway spruce has a natural distribution ranging from the Pyrenees, Alps and Balkans, northwards to south Germany and Scandinavia and eastwards through the Carpathians and Poland to western Russia. It is a high mountain species in central Europe and a lowland tree in northern Europe.

Site suitability
Norway spruce is a very accommodating species and can be used in drier regions than Sitka spruce but not at such high elevations. It is more hardy to spring frosts than Sitka spruce, but may still suffer badly. It will not tolerate salty winds or industrial pollution. Norway spruce grows best on moist, even moderately waterlogged rushy land of medium to high fertility, including heavy clays and the less acid peats. If the site is too dry it tends to suffer from crown dieback. On sites dominated by heather, Norway spruce is unable to compete for nitrogen.

Wood
Norway spruce timber is commonly used in the building industry as structural timber and for flooring and joinery. The timber is easily worked and is said to give a better finish than Sitka spruce. Poorer quality timber is used for pallet manufacture and in Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) and Oriented Strand Board (OSB).

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