Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:William_Wordsworth_001.jpg
Lakeland poet William Wordsworth - he who "...wandered lonely as a cloud ..." and admired "...hosts, of golden daffodils..." - disliked larch trees intensely, considering that they disfigured his beloved Lake District landscape. Planting larch, for its fast-growing valuable timber, became very popular amongst landowners during his lifetime.
Wordsworth had nothing good to say about its foliage, complaining that "In spring the larch becomes green long before the native trees, and its green is so peculiar and vivid, that finding nothing to harmonise with it wherever it comes forth, a disagreeable speck is produced". He did rather grudgingly admit that he found its juvenile cones attractive, though, writing "...it must be acknowledged that the larch, till it has outgrown the size of a shrub, shows, when looked at singly, some elegance in form and appearance, especially in spring, decorated as it is then by the pink tassels of its blossoms".
Wordsworth and the late, great forester Alan Mitchell (1922-1995) who was always equally forthright in his opinions, would never have established a meeting of minds if they had lived in the same era. Mitchell described larch as "...amongst the most valuable and decorative of all the trees we grow". He also drew attention to its value to our native wildlife: "Larches attract a variety of birds", he wrote, "crossbills feed on the seeds available to them from August while their staple diet of Scots pine seeds is not yet ready; tits feed in summer on caterpillars and aphids and in the winter on aphid eggs; redpolls, siskins and bullfinches nest in plantation trees, and buzzards and ravens in the spreading tops of big, old trees. The light, deciduous foliage allows the persistence or development of the pre-vernal herb layer so prized under oakwoods: bluebell, bugle,sanicle,wood-sorrel, and grasses, and their associated butterflies and other insects". (1)
On the tree, if not on its place in the Lakeland landscape, I tend to side with the pragmatic forester and naturalist rather than with the romantic poet ... but then, I rather like those shocking "pink tassels" and those bunches of new needles, like lime green shaving brushes ..... but maybe that's all to do with growing up in the 1960s, when psychedelic art was all the rage.... although, even then, I would never have chosen those colours for a shirt and tie combination.
1. Alan Mitchell. Alan Mitchell's Trees of Britain (1996) HarperCollins. ISBN 0 00 219972 6