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Casuarina equisetifolia 0004.jpg
Casuarina equisetifolia, showing red female flowers and mature fruits
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Casuarinaceae
Genus: Casuarina
Type species
Casuarina equisetifolia

See text

Casuarina distribution.svg
Fruit of C. equisetifolia
Casuarina sp. at the Muséum de Toulouse, France.

Casuarina is a genus of 17 tree species in the family Casuarinaceae, native to Australia, the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It was once treated as the sole genus in the family, but has been split into three genera (see: Casuarinaceae).[1][2]

Casuarina equisetifolia at Chikhaldara, India.

They are evergreen shrubs and trees growing to 35 m (115 ft) tall. The slender, green to grey-green twigs bearing minute scale-leaves in whorls of 5–20. The apetalous flowers are produced in small catkin-like inflorescences. Most species are dioecious, but a few are monoecious. The fruit is a woody, oval structure superficially resembling a conifer cone, made up of numerous carpels, each containing a single seed with a small wing.[1][3] The generic name is derived from the Malay word for the cassowary, kasuari, alluding to the similarities between the bird's feathers and the plant's foliage,[4] though the tree is called rhu in current standard Malay.


Casuarina species are a food source of the larvae of hepialid moths; members of the genus Aenetus, including A. lewinii and A. splendens, burrow horizontally into the trunk then vertically down. Endoclita malabaricus also feeds on Casuarina. The noctuid turnip moth is also recorded feeding on Casuarina.

Pedunculagin, casuarictin, strictinin, casuarinin and casuariin are ellagitannins found in the species within the genus.[5]

Selected species[edit]


Formerly placed here[edit]

Cultivation and uses[edit]

Commonly known as the she-oak, sheoak, ironwood, or beefwood, casuarinas are commonly grown in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. The tree has delicate, slender terminal branches, and leaves that are no more than scales, making the tree look more like a wispy conifer. The plants are very tolerant of windswept locations, and are widely planted as windbreaks, although usually not in agricultural situations.

C. equisetifolia is a common tropical seashore tree known as Common Ironwood, Beefwood, Bull-oak, or Whistling-pine, and is often planted as a windbreak. The wood of this tree is used commercially for shingles or fencing, and is said to make excellent, hot burning firewood.

C. oligodon has been planted in New Guinea in an ancient (more than 3,000 years) silviculture by highland gardeners practicing an intensive traditional permaculture. The wood of this tree is used for building-timber, furniture and tools, and makes excellent firewood. The tree's root nodules are known to fix nitrogen, and it[clarification needed] is traditionally prized for its ability to increase the soil's fertility.[citation needed] Its abundant leaf-fall is high in nitrogen and traditionally prized for mulch.[citation needed]

The resin exuded from some casuarinas is edible and was a food source for Aboriginal people.

Gardeners in Bermuda can appreciate that all parts of the casuarina tree (needles, sawdust, bark, and prepared mulch) can be useful in lowering the soil pH,[citation needed] as Bermuda's topography consists of naturally high pH limestone rock, and perhaps only a foot of red or sandy soil. Lowering soil pH makes the soil more acidic, which can help Bermuda's biodiversity by growing acid-loving plants such as blueberries, blackberries, azaleas, rhododendrons, and such plants that may be seen in similar hardiness zones as Bermuda (USDA 9-11), such as plants found in New Zealand and Florida, which naturally have a lower pH soil than Bermuda.

Invasive species[edit]

Casuarina on Gold Rock Beach, Grand Bahama

C. cunninghamiana, C. glauca and C. equisetifolia have become naturalized in several countries, including Argentina, Bermuda, Cuba, China, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Mauritius, Kenya, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, the Bahamas,[8] Uruguay and the southern United States; in the United States it was introduced in the early 1900s, and is now considered an invasive species.[9][10] The species has nearly quadrupled in southern Florida between 1993 and 2005, where it is known as Australian pine.[11]

C. equisetifolia is widespread in the Hawaiian Islands where it grows both on the seashore in dry, salty, calcareous soils and up in the mountains in high rainfall areas on volcanic soils. It is also an introduced, invasive plant in Bermuda,[12] where it was introduced to replace the Juniperus bermudiana windbreaks killed by juniper blight in the 1940s. Now the ironwoods are growing on cliffs and sandy slopes, competing with surrounding plants; they also erode the cliffs by splitting them apart via root penetration.


  1. ^ a b c Flora of Australia: Casuarina
  2. ^ a b Australian Plant Names Index: "Casuarina".
  3. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  4. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. I A-C. CRC Press. p. 456. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  5. ^ Okuda, T.; T. Yoshida; M. Ashida; K. Yazaki (1983). "Tannins of Casuarina and Stachyurus species. I: Structures of pendunculagin, casuarictin, strictinin, casuarinin, casuariin, and stachyurin". Journal of the Chemical Society (8): 1765–1772.
  6. ^ a b "GRIN Species Records of Casuarina". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
  7. ^ "Casuarina". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2010-02-21.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2008-10-04.
  9. ^ USFS FEIS: Casuarina
  10. ^ USDA Forest service: Casuarina
  11. ^ IFAS: SRFer Mapserver
  12. ^ "Casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia)". Department of Conservation. Government of Bermuda.