Australian beefwood, river she-oak, river oak, creek oak (Eng); casuarina, pino australiano, roble de río (Spa); casuarina (Cat); pinheiro-da-austrália, arvore-da-tristeza (Por).
DID YOU KNOW...? The Latin name of the she-oaks comes from the similarity of their small branches to the loose plumage of the cassowary, a very primitive flightless bird like an ostrich, which is only found in Australia and New Guinea.
It is one of the tallest species of its genus, and can reach a height of 30-35 m. Its straight trunk branches quite low down and its bark is greyish brown, rough and so cracked that it frequently detaches in longitudinal strips. Its overall appearance is reminiscent of a pine, especially the thin, green, flexible twigs that appear to be needle-like leaves (acicular). Nevertheless, its true leaves are tiny, difficult-to-see scales, arranged like a ring around the twigs. The yellowish-green male flowers are inconspicuous and grouped in hanging clusters. The female blooms are borne on a separate plant, they are pale green and arranged in hanging spherical clusters. The fruits are small false cones, approximately 1 cm in diameter and globular in shape. These are formed by a group of bracts that, when separated, release numerous, tiny, whitish winged seeds that are dispersed by the wind. It varies subtly from the Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) by having a greater number of scales in each ring (8-10), less brittle foliage, and smaller seeds (3-5 mm).
The Australian beefwood prefers relatively mild climates and tolerates droughts if they are not too prolonged. It is not a very demanding species with regard to substrate and grows very well in sandy areas with poor soils and close to the sea. In its native environment it is found along riverbanks and stream beds. In the Canary Islands this species seems to be restricted to the edges of some roads along the lower edge of the piso basal lowlands and coastal zones.
This species grows naturally in eastern Australia, from New South Wales to Queensland. It has been introduced into Europe for its beauty and is cultivated in parks and gardens. It also helps prevent soil erosion. In the Canary Islands it has only become established in the wild on Tenerife.