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Casuarina equisetifolia J.R. & G. Forst.

Syn: Casuarina litorea L.
Sheoak, Beefwood, Australian pine, Polynesian ironwood, Horsetail tree

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. Chemical Analysis of Biomass Fuels
  14. References


Extensively cultivated for fuel, erosion control, and as a windbreak. It can be trimmed and used as a hedge. The bark, used for tanning, penetrates the hide quickly, furnishing a fairly plump, pliant, soft leather of pale reddish-brown color. With the neutral sulfite semichemical process, wood yields a good pulp. The wood is used for beams, boatbuilding, electric poles, fences, furniture, gates, house posts, mine props, oars, pavings, pilings, rafters, roofing shingles, tool handles, wagon wheels, and yokes. The needles have been employed in preparing active carbon by the zinc chloride method (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). Hill tribes of New Guinea use Casuarina in rotation to restore nitrogen to the soil. They even use Casuarina oligodon as a cover crop for coffee. Considering its unique ability to grow well, even in highly eroded areas, Aspiras (1981) recommends it for Philippine barren hills and watersheds. "It is not known to deplete the soil of important nutrients unlike other fast-growing species now being grown in the countryside. Aside from its ability to raise the N status of the soil when grown in rotational agriculture or in stabilizing road embankments, it also produces good quality timber of high energy value. It may even be raised as a nurse plant to pine, just like Myrica, or planted between coconut trees for its nitrogen and timber." (Aspiras, 1981). In the Philippines, this is recognized as one of the best trees for planting in sites covered by Imperata grass (NAS, 1983e). In Thailand it is planted along coastlines to produce the poles used in building fish traps as well as fuelwood. In the Dominican Republic, it has been used to reclaim stripmine lands. Egyptians plant the trees along the coast to Protect houses from the wind and salt spray.

Folk Medicine

Reported to be astringent, diuretic, ecbolic, emmenagogue, laxative, and tonic, beefwood is a remedy for beri-beri, colic, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, headache, nerves, pimples, sores, sorethroat, stomachache, swellings, and toothache (Duke and Wain, 1981). In Ternate, the seeds are used for passing blood in diarrhea (Burkill, 1966).


Asparagine and glutamine accounted for 92% of the total amino acid in the nodules. The bark contains 10% catchol tannin, the root 15%.


Tall evergreen tree to 30 m, the branches often drooping, sulcate, green, with 6–8 scalelike leaves. Internodes 5–7.5 mm long on the branchlets, only 2.5 mm on main shoots. Main shoots minutely hairy, with small recurved scales ca 2.5 mm long, usually 8 in a whorl. Male spikes usually numerous, terminating the branches on which the female "cones" are borne lower down, cylindric to fusiform 12–24 mm long. Female "cones" subglobose to ellipsoid, 10–20 mm in diameter. Seeds ca 660,000–990,000/kg.


Reported from the Australian Center of Diversity, beefwood, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate calcareous soils, drought, granitic soils, poor soil, salt and salt spray, sand, waterlogging, and wind. In Kenya, it grows around cement works, in Hawaii in sterile pumice, in Malaysia on sterile tin tailings, near Hilo Bay on tidal rocks with its roots in salt water (NAS, 1983e). It is sensitive to fire, grazing, and, in early stages, weed competition. Older trees are problems in hurricanes. It is one of the most fire-sensitive of the Casaurina species. Subspecies incana is a small tree possibly useful for low growing shelter belts (NAS, 1983e) (2n = 18).


Said to be indigenous from Indonesia and Malaysia to India and Sri Lanka and to north and northeast Australia, the Australian Pine is now one of the most common trees on frost-free beaches anywhere in the world.


Ranging from Subtropical Thorn Woodland to Wet through Tropical Thorn to Wet Forest Life Zone, Casuarina is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 6.4 to 43 dm (mean of 49 cases = 16.0) (but 2–50 possible, NAS, 1983e), annual temperature of 22.1 to 26.9°C (mean of 34 cases = 25.2), and pH of 5.0 to 7.7 (mean of 2 cases = 6.4) (Duke, 1978, 1979).


Seeds have been successfully stored for 24 months at ca -7°C to 2°C with moisture content of 6–16% (Ag. Handbook 450). In Hawaii seeds are broadcast in spring and covered with less than 1 cm soil. Seedling density should be about 21–32/1000 sq cm. Mulching is not required. Normally seedlings are raised in nurseries to outplant taking advantage of the rainy season, 4–18 months after sowing. Irrigation may be needed during dry periods over the first three years. In new areas, seeds have to be inoculated. They should also be treated to repel ants. Cuttings strike root readily. Trees are usually spaced 2–4 m apart. WARNING: Casuarina can exhaust the soil moisture, lower the water table, and restrict understory growth, leaving the soil exposed. Some species are agressive weed species. Trees may die young under unfavorable circumstances (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). According to the National Academy of Sciences, this has become an undesirable weed in Florida (NRC, 1982).


Although other Casuarinas coppice readily, this one does not. Casuarina plantations are worked under a clear-felling system, with a rotation of 7–35 years. Some estimates showed a long rotation (33 years) gave greatest volume, but a shorter rotation (15 years) is preferred. In Madras State, the plantations are worked with a short rotation of 7–15 years (usually 10 years), while in North Kanara a 30-year rotation is followed. From a purely silvicultural consideration, the proper rotation appears to be 7 years. In parts of the Philippines, this has outgrown Gmelina arborea and Leucaena (NAS, 1983e).

Yields and Economics

With plants spaced 2 m apart, on a 7–10-year rotation, the trees may yield 75–200 MT wood/ha, i.e. 10–20 MT/ha/yr. Higher yields have been reported. Citing literature yields of 58–229 kg/ha/yr nitrogen, Aspiras (1981) notes that Casuarina equisetifolia fixes 1,742 nmoles C2H4/24 hrs/g dry weight, compared to 4,479 for Casuarina rumphiana, 4,545 for Casuarina montana, 2,267 for Elaeagnus philippensis, 225 for Alnus maritima, 626 for Alnus hepalensis, 7,242 for Coriaria intermedia, and only 13 for Myrica javanica.


Litter fall from Casuarina littoralis is said to run 29 MT/ha/yr. However, in China litterfall from C. equisetifolia is 4 MT/ha/yr with a mean annual wood increment of 4–5 m3/ha (NRC, 1982).

In India:

5 year-old trees averaging ca 22 cm DBH, 6+ m tall yielded ca 14 m3/ha
10 year-old trees averaging ca 42 cm DBH, 11+ m tall yielded ca 28 m3/ha
15 year-old trees averaging ca 56 cm DBH, 16+ m tall yielded ca 54 m3/ha
20 year-old trees averaging ca 70 cm DBH, 24+ m tall yielded ca 94 m3/ha
25 year-old trees averaging ca 80 cm DBH, 31+ m tall yielded ca 140 m3/ha
30 year-old trees averaging ca 90 cm DBH, 35 m tall yielded ca 190 m3/ha
35 year-old trees averaging ca 96 cm DBH, 36+ m tall yielded ca 210m3/ha
40 year-old trees averaging ca 100 cm DBH, 37+ m tall yielded ca 240 m3/ha
indicating yields of ca 6 cubic meters per year. Casuarina equisetifolia fixes ca 60–230 kg N/ha/yr (Aspiras, 1981). The wood, burning with immense heat, even when green, has been called the best firewood in the world. In India, it is used to fuel locomotives. It makes a good charcoal. In China the wood is used for firing brick kilns. With a specific gravity of 0.8–1.2, the wood has a calorific value of 4,959 kcal/kg (8,910 Btu). The charcoal has a calorific value of 7,181 kcals/kg, one of the highest reported values. The yields of 10–20 MT/ha/yr are roughly equivalent to 25–50 barrels of oil/ha/yr.

Biotic Factors

In Puerto Rico, natural regeneration is rare because ants consume nearly all the seeds; many trees are killed by disease. The Puerto Rican dieback of 1940, followed by stemcanker, has been blamed on Diplodia natalensis. Nursery seedlings in India are attacked by crickets (Brachutripes achatinus). Other insect pests, e.g., Arbela tetraonis, the bark-eating caterpillar, Celosterna scabrator, a longicorn, and grubs of the rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros, also cause considerable damage to plantations. Infection by the root fungus Trichosporium vesiculosum is among the more serious diseases affecting Casuarina (favored by excessive watering and congestion). Early thinning checks it to some extent. Trees infected by insects and fungi should be removed and the stumps grubbed up. Keeping an interval of two years between felling and replanting, and planting of other trees such as Anacardium occidentale, Azadirachta indica, Pithecellobium dulce, Pongamia glabra, Sapindus laurifolius, and Syzygium cumini, along with Casuarina are recommended to segregate the plants, minimizing the spread of infection. It also helps attract insectivorous birds which are remarkably scarce in Casuarina. A symbiotic fungus Phomopsis casuarinae F.Tassi has been recorded in all organs of Casuarina (C.S.I.R., 1948–1976). Browne (1968) lists quite a few diseases. Bacteria: PseudoNonas solanacearum. Fungi: Armillaria mellea, Corticium salmonicolor, Fomes badius, Fomes durissimus, Fomes fastuosus, Fomes senex, Ganoderma lucidum, Macrophomina phaseoli, Phoma casuarinae, Phytophthora cambivora, Poria hypolateritia, Schizophyllum commune, Sclerotium rolfsii, Trichosporum versiculosum, Ustulina deusta, Xylaria hypoxylon. Nematodes include Helicotylenchus cavenessi, Radopholus similes, Rotylenchulus reniformis, Tylenchus sp., Xiphinema ifacolum. Angiospermae: Cuscuta campestris, Dendrophthoe falcata, Dendrophthoe lanosa. Coleoptera: Amblyrrhinus poricollis, Anoplophora chinensis, Celosterna scabrator, Ceresium furtivum, Cratopus punctum, Cryptocephalus sehestedti, Doliopygus chapuisi, Doliopygus serratus, Hamartus instabilis, Hypomeces squamosus, Hypothenemus birmanus, Lixus camerunus, Lixus spinimanus, Myllocerus curvicornis, Myllocerus fabricii, Myllocerus sabulosus, Myllocerus undecimpustulatus, Platypus hintzi, Sthenias grisator. Hemiptera: Anoplocnemis tristator, Ceroplastes ceriferus, Clastoptera undulata, Delococcus tafoensis, Duplaspidiotus tesseratus, Ferrisia virgata, Halys dentatus, Icerya aegyptiace, Icerya formicarum, Icerya nigroareolata, Icerya purchasi, Icerya seychellarum, Naiacoccus serpentinus, Nipaecoccus vastator, Parthenolecanium persicae. Isoptera: Glyptotermes dilatatus, Neotermes greeni, Odontotermes obesus, Odontotermes wallonensis, Postelectrotermes militaris. Lepidoptera: Acanthopsyche reimeri, Ascotis selenaria, Eumenodora tetrachorda, Eumeta crameri, E. variegata, Indarbela quadrinotata, Indarbela tetraonis, Labdia xylinaula, Maruca testulalis, Melasina energa, Metarmostis asaphaula, Sahyadrassus malabaricus, Spodoptera litura, S. mauritia, Zeuzera coffeae. Orthoptera: Brachytrupes portentosus, Gymnogryllus erythrocephalus, Gymnogryllus humeralis, Schistocerca gregaria.

Chemical Analysis of Biomass Fuels

Analysing 62 kinds of biomass for heating value, Jenkins and Ebeling (1985) reported a spread of 19.44 to 18.26 MJ/kg, compared to 13.76 for weathered rice straw to 23.28 MJ/kg for prune pits. On a % DM basis, the wh. plant contained 78.94% volatiles, 1.40% ash, 19.66% fixed carbon, 48.61% C, 5.83% H, 43.36% O, 0.59% N, 0.02% S, 0.16% Cl, and undertermined residue.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, December 30, 1997