Medium-sized tree to 20 m tall, trunk diameter to 0.6 m Bark: brown, thick, furrowed, and scaly. Twigs: moderately stout, yellowish, hairy, with numerous conspicuous leaf scars or short lateral spurs. Buds: small, rounded. Form: broadly pyramidal, open, becoming irregular. Pollen cones: solitary, yellowish, small, egg-shaped to cylindrical. Needles: deciduous, in clusters of 30 to 40 on short spurs or borne singly, stalkless, yellowish green, 2.5 - 4 cm long, more or less flat, with a central ridge running lengthwise beneath, soft, turning yellow and dropping in autumn. Young seed cones: red, small, oblong. Mature seed cones: woody, upright, stalkless, light brown, 2 - 3.5 cm long, oblong, softly brown-hairy, with bracts equal to or shorter than the scales. Scales 30 to 50, rounded, thin. Seeds numerous, paired, winged.
Similar species: The similar Larix laricina differs by having smaller seed cones (1 - 2 cm long) and shorter needles (2 - 2.5 cm). Also, its twigs and needles do not exhibit as yellowish a cast as those of L. decidua.
Habitat and ecology: Introduced from Europe, and widely planted in North America. An occasional escape from cultivation.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Etymology: Larix is the Latin word for larch, a tree that was valued for its strong wood. Decidua means deciduous.