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Casuarina cristata (Family Casuarinaceae)

Belah, Black Oak (SA)



This is a species of eastern Australia, where it grows along a belt 1300 by 1400 km in central and northern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland. The latitudinal range is 22-34o S and it is found at altitudes from near sea level to 400 m. (QLD, NSW)


A moderately fast-growing, nitrogen-fixing tree, 10-20 m tall that frequently produces root suckers, thus forming dense stands. The bark is finely fissured, grey-brown to almost black. The branchlets are drooping in vigorous trees. The segments are somewhat waxy and the tiny leaf teeth are in whorls of 8-12. Male flowers are in spikes, 1.5-5 cm long. and the female flowers are small, reddish and hairy. The woody cones are quite large, 13-25 mm long and 10-16 mm wide. The seed is pale coloured, winged and 6-10 mm long. Seeds mature about June. There are about 110 000 viable seeds per kilogram and they germinate readily without pretreatment. They can also be stored for long periods. Like other casuarinas, it supports an actinomycete bacterium (Frankia) which forms nodules on its roots and fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Ecology/Way of Life:

This species occurs mostly in semi-arid and warm sub-humid zones. Heavy frosts occur and range in frequency from 2-50 per year. Mean annual rainfall is 300-1200 mm with a uniform incidence in the south to a summer maximum in the north. The landscape is one of plains, gentle slopes and scattered small hills. It occurs on heavy, grey or black soils that contain calcium carbonate and on a range of clayey or loamy soils. It is found with Eucalyptus populnea and Acacia harpophylla in woodlands, and in tall shrublands and low woodlands with Flindersia maculosa and Geijera parviflora.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

The heartwood is dark brown and the narrow sapwood is creamy yellow. The wood is heavy and the grain straight. Although not a commercial timber it has been used for shingles, tool handles and ornamental items. It can be used for fencing, but is not long lasting in the ground, and it makes an excellent fuelwood. The foliage is browsed by livestock and is useful during droughts when there is little other forage. It is extremely useful for shelterbelts and it makes an attractive ornamental. Its ability to produce root suckers may make it a weed in some areas.

Other Comments:

Casuarina cristata (named in 1848 by the Dutch botanist, Frederich Miquel, who specialised in several typically Australian families of plants; the genus is based on the Malay kasuari = cassowary, referring to the resemblance of the foliage to this bird's plumage; the species name comes from the Latin cristatus = crested, or tufted, perhaps referring to the long points of the cones.

Further Reading:

Anderson, E. 1993. Plants of central Queensland: their identification and uses. Department of Primary Industries, Queensland Government Printer, Brisbane.

Boland, D.J., Brooker, M.I.H., Chippendale, G.M., Hall, N., Hyland, B.P.M., Kleinig, D.A., Johnston, R.D. and Turner, J.D. 1984. Forest trees of Australia. 4th ed. Nelson and CSIRO, Melbourne. 687p.

Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (eds.) 1997. Australian trees and shrubs; species for land rehabilitation and farm planting in the tropics. ACIAR Monograph no. 24. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra. 384p.

Marcar, N.E. Crawford, D.F., Leppert, P.L., Jovanovic, T., Floyd, R. and Farrow, R. 1995. Trees for saltland. A guide to selecting native species for Australia. CSIRO, Melbourne. 72p.


Soils Vegetation types Fodder Firewood Timber Windbreak Salt-tolerance Nitrogen-fixation


Text & map from Australian Trees and Shrubs, courtesy Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; text edited by J. Turnbull; photo courtesy Brian Gunn.

Sponsored by:

Brian Gunn/ACIAR

Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 25600 bytes Casuarina cristata
Distribution Map  
image/jpeg 24354 bytes Distribution of Casuarina cristata

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