Index | Search | Home

new crop Logo

Casuarina cunninghamiana Miq.

River sheoak

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 unpublished.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. References


In Egypt, Casuarina is the most important genus in forestry, with C. cunninghamiana and C. glauca protecting the desert highways, C. equisetifolia, the coastal housing. Annual plantings were one million seedlings in 1975, four million in 1980, projected at 10–15 million in 1990. In South Africa, used for firewood, poles, reclamation, shelterbelts, timer, and windbreaks. Planted as a windbreak, superior to pine, in California. The timber is durable and useful for flooring. The wood is dark, close-grain, and nicely marked. The bark can be used as tanbark. Foliage is liable to be eaten by livestock (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962). In Argentina, it is planted on the Pampas as a windbreak and shade tree, along stream banks to protect them from erosion. Because of its importance for protecting stream banks from erosion, it cannot be felled without permit in New South Wales. In Puerto Rico, grown for ornament, shade and windbreak.

Folk Medicine

No data uncovered.


Once bioflavonyls were thought restricted to gymnosperms and Casuarina, but now they have been found in other angiospermous genera, both monocots and dicots, o-coumaric acid has been reported in the genus as well as protocatechuic acid. Asparagine and glutamine accounted for 92% of the total amino acid in the nodules. In root nodules of legumes, infection increases markedly the IAA presents but in C. cunninghamiana (as in Myrica cerifera) there is an increase in IAA oxidase and no detectable IAA. Hence the nodule-roots grow upward rather than downward. Hemoglobin levels in the root nodules are said to compare with those in the pea (Postgate, 1971). Bark grown in Natal yields 6.7–11.3% tannin. The pollen may be allergenic.


Medium sized tree 15–20 m or more tall, the trunk straight, to 30 cm in diameter. Closely resembling C. equisetifolia, but the fruiting cones are much smaller (ca 10 mm long), globular, very regular, with prominent valves. Scale leaves 8–10, whorled at the nodes, minute. Male flowers crowded in rings equipped with grayish scales, each with one exposed brown stamen, less than 0.5 mm long, with two minute brown scalelike sepals. Seeds pale brown, ca 440,000–550,000/kg.


Reported from the Australian Center of Diversity, the river sheoak, or cvs thereof, is reported to tolerate acid soils, alkaline soils, calcareous soils (perhaps chlorotic), drought, muck, sanddunes, salt, weeds, and wind. This species is more cold tolerant than the other Casuarinas grown in Florida (NAS, 1983e). In South Africa, it is said to be hardy to drought and frost. Not as salt tolerant as Casuarina glauca. (2n = 18)


Native to eastern and northern Australia, growing from southern New South Wales (latitude 37°S) to northern Queensland (latitude 12°S). It often fringes freshwater streams and rivers on both sides of the Great Dividing Range. A distinct race., possibly a separate species, occurs along larger rivers in higher rainfall areas of the Northern Territory (NRC, 1982). Introduced in Argentina, Arizona, California, Chile, Egypt, Florida, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe.


Ranging from Warm Temperate Dry to Moist through Tropical Thorn to Dry Forest Life Zones, the river sheoak is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 5 to 15 dm. Has survived temperatures of -8°C with no apparent injury. Said to tolerate up to 50 light frosts per year. Usually occurs in alluvial soils varying from silty loams to sands and gravels. Casuarina spp. have been observed as the first higher plant species to populate newly formed coral atolls in the Pacific (Postgate, 1971).


In Hawaii seed are broadcast in spring and covered lightly with less than one cm soil. A seedling density of ca 200–325/m2 is recommended, but final densities should, of course, be much thinner (Ag. Handbook 450). Molybdenum is necessary for dinitrogen fixation.


In continental U.S., seed bearing age is 4–5 years and flowering peaks from April–June, fruiting from September–December. Good seed crops occur annually (Ag. Handbook 450). Timber can be harvested as needed. Litter and firewood is often gathered as the accumulation justifies.

Yields and Economics

No data uncovered.


Casuarina spp. have very dense wood, with specific gravity 0.8–1.2, calorific value of ca 5,000 kcal/kg, splits easily, and burns slowly with little smoke or ash. It also can be burned when green, an important advantage in fuel short areas. From their fourth year, trees shed ca 4 tons cones/year. These too make good pellet-sized fuel (NAS, 1983e). Casuarina spp. are good for charcoal, losing only 2/3 their weight, compared to 3/4 for most woods.

Biotic Factors

Browne (1968) lists Perna exposita (Lepidoptera), and Hystrix africaeaustralis (Mammalia). Agriculture Handbook No. 165 lists the following diseases for Casuarina spp.: Armillaria mella (root rot), Sorosporium saponariae (flower smut), Synchytrium chiltoni (leaf gall), Synchytrium stellariae, and Ustilago alsinaea (seed smut). Curly Top, Spotted Wilt, and Yellows viruses are also listed.


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