Larch resin harvesting Traditional craftsmanship in Carinthia, inscribed 2018
The process by which larch resin and/or larch resin balsam is extracted is a tree-friendly one. First, a tap hole is drilled into a resin pocket in a tree’s trunk; this hole is then stopped with a larch wood plug until the harvest (which generally takes place at two-year intervals). In Carinthia’s Gurk, Metnitz, and Görtschitz Valleys, as well as around the Styrian municipality of Neumarkt, larch resin harvesting is done by resin workers as well as by farmers and foresters. The techniques used and the rules to be followed have been passed down from generation to generation within family businesses.
Larch resin harvesting in the Alps is an old process that required a concession to carry out during certain historical periods (such as the 18th century). In Carinthia, the first commercial resin extraction was done by Nikolaus Schusser at the beginning of the 20th century. In order to ensure that his harvesting method would be gentle and sustainable, Schusser contacted silviculture experts and asked them to study the matter. In larch resin extraction, a tap hole is drilled in order to access the resin-filled vertical cracks (resin pockets) in the tree’s trunk and provide a place into which the resin can flow and from which the accumulated resin can subsequently be removed. Knowledge of the proper technique makes it possible to estimate where the natural pocket will be and avoid drilling past it, thus avoiding injury to the tree. Alongside the specialised technique employed, this tradition also includes special terms used by the resin workers (Jungfernharz [virgin resin], Pech ziachn [a dialect term denoting resin’s extraction],etc.) as well as the use of special tools. Resin extraction is not only of economic value to forest owners—whose additional income from the sale of resin can be considerable—but also helps to quickly determine whether a tree is diseased or healthy.