Casuarina equisetifolia - Fithuroanu
Casuarina equisetifolia L.
Synonyms: Casuarina litoralis, Casuarina litorea
Common names: Casuarina, beef wood, beach she-oak
Dhivehi name: Fithuroanu
Status: Occasional and recently introduced.
Description: A fast growing, evergreen tall tree that is capable of growing to height of 20 to 30 m. The shape of the crown is narrowly pyramidal, resembling some of the conifers in appearance. Crown tends to be flat in old trees. Trunk is straight, cylindrical, branchless up to 5 to 8 m. Buttress is commonly seen in old trees. Bark is smooth and greyish-brown in young plants, turning to rough, thick, fissured and splitting into strips and flakes and dark brown in old trees. Branches are long with soft dark green and sometimes grey "needles". These drooping needles are actually multi-jointed branchlets with prominent angular ribs and 25 to 35 cm in length and 1 mm thick. Leaves are reduced to tiny scales, tooth like and arranged in whorls of seven to eight at the nodes of the green branchlets. Flowers are unisexual. Male flowers are terminal or sub-terminal, simple, elongated spikes, 0.8 to 4 cm long and greenish-grey in colour. Infructescence (multiple fruits) is a woody, cone-like structure, 0.1 to 2.5 cm long and 0.15 to 2 cm wide, containing a number of small fruits, which are grey or yellow-brown in colour and winged.
Uses: She-oak is considered as one of the best firewood because it readily catches fire even when green and ashes retain heat for a long time. Wood is also used to produce fine quality charcoal. Wood is hard to very hard and strong but difficult to season due to severe warping and checking. In the Maldives, timber is sometimes used to make fashan (keel) of dhonis. It is one of the main trees used to control soil erosion. It has been reported that casuarina plantation played a role in reducing the impact of tsunami on the lives and property of the coastal community and thus it can be an important constituent of coastal bioshield.
Ecology, propagation and management: It grows on a variety of soil but it performs well in sandy soil. It is highly tolerant to drought and aerosol salt. Its tolerance to soil salinity is good. It is also capable of withstanding high temperatures and high winds, and thus becoming a candidate species to plant along the shoreline. Propagation is mainly by seeds. Seeds can be sown without any pretreatment and seeds germinate within two weeks. Seedlings raised in nursery beds can be transplanted to containers after attaining 5 to 10 cm height. Container seedlings, which are 25 to 30 cm height, are suitable for outplanting.