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Casuarina equisetifolia - L.

Common Name She Oak, Common Ru, Australian Pine, Horsetail Casuarina
Family Casuarinaceae
USDA hardiness 9-12
Known Hazards Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling
Habitats Confined to a narrow strip adjacent to sandy coasts, rarely extending inland to lower hills. Found on sand dunes, in sands alongside estuaries and behind fore-dunes and gentle slopes near the sea[ 303 ]
Range E. Asia - Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia and th
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (5 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Casuarina equisetifolia She Oak, Common Ru, Australian Pine, Horsetail Casuarina

Casuarina equisetifolia She Oak, Common Ru, Australian Pine, Horsetail Casuarina


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Also known as Australian Pine Tree, She Oak, Shingle Oak, Coastal She Oak and Horsetail Casuarina, Common Ru or Casuarina equisetifolia is an evergreen tree that grows up to 35 m in height with trunk diameter of up to 100 cm. It is adaptable to a wide range of conditions and can be grown on poor sandy soil conditions. The root extracts of the plant are used for dysentery, diarrhoea and stomach pain. Twigs decoction is used against swelling and the powdered bark against pimples. Another important use of Common Ru is that it yields heavy heartwood that is resistant to pressure treatment and dry-wood termites. It is used for house posts, electric poles, tool handles, wagon wheels and mine props. Common Ru has the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen like some other species in the same Genus. It is salt tolerant and is amenable to trimming.

Physical Characteristics

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Casuarina equisetifolia is an evergreen Tree growing to 30 m (98ft) by 20 m (65ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. The flowers are pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Casuarina africana Lour. Casuarina brunoniana Miq. Casuarina excelsa Dehnh. ex Miq. Casuarina indica

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Seed
Edible Uses: Salt

The seeds are roasted for salt. The leaves and green fruit were chewed to stimulate salivation to quench thirst.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antidiarrhoeal  Dysentery  Skin  Stomachic

Root extracts are used for the treatment of dysentery, diarrhoea and stomach-ache[ 303 ]. A decoction of the twigs is used for treating swelling[ 303 ]. The powdered bark is used for treating pimples on the face[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Fencing  Fuel  Hedge  Paper  Preservative  Shelterbelt  Soil conditioner  Soil reclamation  Soil stabilization  Tannin  Wood

Other uses rating: Very High (5/5). Seaside, Windbreak, Coastal screening, Hedges, Topiary, Xerophytic. Agroforestry Uses: Since it is salt tolerant and grows in sand, the plant is used to control erosion along coastlines, estuaries, riverbanks and waterways. In Sarawak, Indonesia the species is protected because of its importance in controlling coastal erosion[ 303 ]. Many areas where the species naturally occurs are susceptible to tropical cyclones or typhoons, and its general tolerance to strong winds has encouraged its use in protective planting[ 303 ]. The abundance of highly branched twigs absorbs wind energy amazingly well[ 303 ]. In areas with hot, dry winds the tree protects crops and animals herds[ 303 ]. In South China, an estimated 1 million hectares has been established in shelterbelts along the coastal dunes[ 303 ]. The tree fixes atmospheric nitrogen and is able to grow vigorously on barren, polluted sites and thrive in deep sandy soils[ 303 ]. It is therefore often planted for reclaiming and improving the land. It is remarkably suited for boundary planting as it does not intercept much of the incoming solar radiation and yields substantial quantities of green leaf manure on lopping as well as several other products[ 303 ]. It is also amenable to trimming and so can be used as a hedge[ 307 ]. With high productivity and properties that enhance soil fertility, it shows promise as an agroforestry species for arid and semi-arid areas. Experiments at Prabhunagar, India, for example, showed that citrus trees grew larger under this plant than in pure stands[ 303 ]. Other Uses The bark contains 6 - 18% tannin[ 303 ]. This is used for preserving ropes etc, and also contains a red pigment, so can be used as a dye[ 404 ]. The tree yields a heavy hardwood with an air-density of 900-1000 kg/cubic m. Heartwood is pale red, pale brown to dark red-brown, moderately to sharply differentiated from the sapwood, which is yellowish or pale yellow-brown with a pink tinge. Grain is straight, slightly interlocked or wavy; texture fine to moderately fine and even. Shrinkage is moderate to very high, and in the latter case the wood is difficult to season due to severe warping and checking. Wood is hard to very hard and strong. The heartwood is highly resistant to pressure treatment, but sapwood is amenable to such treatment. Heartwood is also resistant to dry-wood termites. The wood is used for house posts, rafters, electric poles, tool handles, oars, wagon wheels and mine props[ 303 ]. The wood is used to produce paper pulp using neutral sulphate and semi-chemical processes, and as a raw material for rayon fibres[ 303 ]. The highly regarded wood ignites readily even when green, and ashes retain heat for long periods[ 303 ] It has been called ?the best firewood in the world? and also produces high-quality charcoal. Calorific value of the wood is 5,000 kcal/kg and that of the charcoal exceeds 7,000 kcal/kg. It has been used for both domestic and industrial fuel such as for railroad locomotives[ 303 ]. In Asia, leaf litter from plantations is often removed to be used as fuel[ 303 ].

Special Uses

Carbon Farming  Coppice  Food Forest  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Industrial Crop: Tannin  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

Common ru is adaptable to a wide range of conditions, being found from the semi-arid to subhumid tropics and subtropics, usually near sea level but succeeding under cultivation at heights up to 1,400 metres[ 303 , 320 ]. It grows best in areas where the mean annual temperature is in the range 10 - 35°c and prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 700 - 2,000mm, though it tolerates 200 - 3,500mm[ 303 , 320 ]. In most areas where it grows there is a distinct dry period of 4 - 6 months, although this seasonality decreases towards the equator in Southeast Asia and in the southern parts of its range in Australia[ 303 ]. Requires a sunny position and a well-drained soil[ 303 , 307 ]. Prefers alkaline to neutral soils[ 320 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6.5, but tolerates 4 - 8.5[ 418 ]. Plants are very resistant to salt spray and can also tolerate occasional inundation by sea water at extremely high tides[ 303 ]. Young plants are susceptible to drought until their roots reach the groundwater table, which may take up to 2 - 3 years after planting[ 303 ], but then they become very drought resistant[ 307 ]. This species has proved to be very invasive in many of the areas into which it has been introduced[ 307 ]. Common ru has a life span of 40 - 50 years and displays fast early growth. Under favourable conditions, early growth rates are about 2 metres per year. On favourable sites, it can yield an annual increment of 15 cubic metres per hectare of wood in 10 years[ 303 ]. In South China, where an estimated 1 million hectares in shelterbelts along the coastal dunes have been established since 1954, heights of 7 - 8 metres and diameters of 5 - 7 cm are achieved in about 4 years[ 303 ]. The rotation period ranges from 4 - 5 years for fuel wood and 10 - 15 years for poles[ 303 ]. Common ru can be the only woody species growing over a ground cover of dune grasses and salt-tolerant broadleaved herbs; it can also be part of a richer association of trees and shrubs collectively termed the Indo-Pacific strand flora[ 303 ]. The tree is not fire resistant and protection is necessary[ 303 ]. The plant coppices only to a limited extent and best results are obtained when cut young[ 303 ]. Timely thinning is essential as Casuarina species trees demand light[ 303 ]. Young trees are susceptible to competition from weeds, especially grasses[ 303 ]. Although the tree is evergreen, it usually sheds a large amount of twigs throughout the year[ 404 ]. In Asia, leaf litter from plantations is often removed for use as fuel and this draws heavily upon soil phosphorus and potassium reserves. This can result in reduced yield in the subsequent rotation[ 303 ]. In cultivation, this species hybridizes with C. Glauca and C. Junghuhniana[ 303 ]. Root nodules containing the actinorhizal symbiont Frankia enable C. Equisetifolia to fix atmospheric nitrogen. These root nodules can be prolific[ 303 ]. The tree possesses proteoid roots and forms associations with vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae[ 303 ]. This species can be monoecious or dioecious. Dioecious plants will require both male and female forms to be grown if fruit and seed are required[ 303 , 320 , 404 ].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Industrial Crop: Tannin  Occur generally in the roots, wood, bark, leaves, and fruit of many plants. Used in tanning leather, dyeing fabric, making ink, and medical applications.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seeds can be sown without pre-treatment but should be protected from ants[ 303 ]. Germination takes up to 2 weeks and is epigeal. Seedlings should be planted in well-drained light soils, not clay soils, to decrease the incidence of diseases and pests. Appropriate watering, correct spacing of plants and adequate light should check damping-off in the nursery. Seedlings can be pricked out when 3 - 10 cm tall and transferred to beds or containers. Plants are typically suitable for out-planting when 25 - 30 cm tall[ 303 ]. Storage behaviour is orthodox. Viability can be maintained for several years in hermetic storage at 3 deg. C with 5-9% mc. There are about 26000 seeds/kg but viability is often low, even for fresh seed, averaging 50% Cuttings are made from small branchlets 2 mm diameter and 10 - 15 cm length, and rooting is enhanced through the use of rooting hormone[ 303 ]. Air-layering is sometimes practised but is too costly for large-scale operations[ 303 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Also known as Australian Pine Tree, She Oak, Shingle Oak, Coastal She Oak and Horsetail Casuarina, Common Ru or Casuarina equisetifolia. Other common names: Australian beefwood; Australian oak; Australian pine; beach casuarinas; beach she-oak; beefwood; casuarinas; coast ironwood; coast she-oak; horsetail beefwood; horsetail tree; ironwood; she-oak; swamp oak; whistling pine; whistling tree. Spanish: Arbol de hierro; Arbol de la tristeza; casuarina; casuarina cola de caballo; palo de buey; pino australiano; pino de Australia; pino de Chipre; pino real. French: arbe de fer; arbre de fer; bois de fer; bois pin dÕ Australie; Casuarine a feuilles de prele; filao; filao bord-de-mer; filao-pays; pin d'Australie. Chinese: mu ma huang; pu tong mu ma huang. Bahamas: beef-wood. Brazil: cavalinho; chorao; pinheiro. Cuba: casuarina de la nueva Holanda; pino cipres; pino de Holanda. Ethiopia: arzelibanos; shewshewe. Fiji: nakure; nggaro; nokonoko; nokonoko ndamu; qaro; thau; velau. French Polynesia: 'aito. Germany: Schachtelhalmblaettriger Kaenguruhbaum; Strand- Kasuarine. Guam: gago; gagu. Haiti: bius pin dÕAustralie. India: casuarina; jangli saru; jau; savukku. Indonesia: cemara laut; jemara laut. Italy: casuarina. Jamaica: willow. Japan: mokumao; ogasawa matsu. Laos: son th'ale. Lesser Antilles: filao; mile tree; she aok. Malaysia: ru; ru laut. Marshall Islands: mejinoki. Myanmar: tin yu. Netherlands: kazuarisboom. Palau: agas; agasu; ngas; ngasu. Papua New Guinea: yar. Philippines: agoho. Puerto Rico: pino australiano. Sri Lanka: kasa ghas. Thailand: son thale. Tonga: toa. Vietnam: phi lao.

Africa, Australia, East Africa, East Timor, India, Kiribati, Nauru, Pacific, Papua New Guinea, PNG, SE Asia, Somalia, Tanzania, Timor-Leste.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

It is reported to be invasive in a number of countries and is a particular problem in Florida and South Africa, and reportedly invasive elsewhere, e.g. Brazil and the Caribbean.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Allocasuarina littoralisBlack She Oak, Bull Oak, WayetuckTree8.0 9-11 FLMHNM104
Casuarina cristataBelahTree12.0 8-11 FLMHNDM003
Casuarina cunninghamianaRiver She-OakTree18.0 8-11  LMHNDM005
Casuarina glaucaSwamp Oak, Gray sheoakTree18.0 8-11  LMNDM103
Casuarina littoralisShe Oak, Black she-oakTree8.0 8-11  LMHNDM003
Casuarina oligodonShe-oak, kiluTree25.0 10-12 MLMHNM004
Casuarina torulosaForest OakTree15.0 8-11  LMHNDM003
Casuarina verticillataDrooping she-oakTree10.0 8-11  LMHNDM003

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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