Friday, January 13, 2012

Encouraging Native Plant Growth Under Casuarinas (Australian Pines)

Posted by PicasaWhat grows well under those pesky Casuarinas or Australian Pines?  (Latin names: Casuarina equisetifolia and Casuarina glauca).

My neighbor plans to remove the Australian Pines in front of his house and asked how to prevent erosion. He wants to try the method that Martin suggested in his blog, of cutting them down slowly, allowing undergrowth to get started. And he wanted to know, what grows under Casuarinas? 

I got out my camera and decided to photograph some of the plants growing around the stump of a giant Casuarina in an area that we had  cleared of Australian Pines.

Stage One
Here is what our site looked like when we started.   One could see the ocean through the Australian Pine trees, but not very well.  Although there was other vegetation, it was well hidden and certainly not flourishing.

The first year, we started to remove the Australian Pines by removing many small, baby trees.  At first, we used a machete and just cut down the 7 to 10 footers.  Then I spent a number of days pulling out smaller ones by hand, roots and all.  Most of the ones that I pulled out were three feet high or shorter.   I counted that I removed over 700 small baby Casuarina plants, by hand  while using a pickaxe to pull the root out.  It was a tiring job, but the view of the beach and the ocean was beautiful making it a pleasant work site, especially in the cool of the early morning.
Stage Two, opening up to undergrowth

After doing all this we began to see other trees emerging around the remaining Casuarinas.  Then new groundcover started to show, but not very clearly.  We got a view of the ocean.  And the baby plants got some sunlight.  But we still had more work to do.

Stage Three, New Growth
The next year, we cut down a giant Casuarina that was out in front of our house.  Now the other plants really started flourishing.  We added some Coconut Palms.  In addition, the Seagrape (Coccoloba Uvifera), Coco Plum (Chrysobalanus Icaco) and the Bay Geranium (Ambrosia hispida), among others, emerged and started to grow everywhere, on their own.  I took a series of shots below showing all the plants that now grow naturally around the old Casuarina stump.   Here they are.

Thatch Palm
Bay Cedar  (Suriana maritima)

Palmetta Palms
Bay Geranium
Coco Plum
Sea Heather

It is so wonderful to have all this diversity of plant life. The birds and butterflies like it too. They flutter from plant to plant, eating seeds and lighting on them, probably enjoying the ocean view, as do we.

You can see that I have yet to learn the name of all the plants in my front yard. This is because I did not purchase them at any nursery.  They emerged naturally, once the invasive plant was fully removed. In other words, they did not arrive in containers with plastic labels showing their names. But my neighbors are teaching me the names of these native plants.   As I learn their names, I will add them to the photos.

We recently bought two additional plants that we will be putting into the ground around our house.   They are highly recommended and are great native replacements for the Australian Pine.  They are Lignum Vitae (Gualacum sanactum) and Red Cedar (Juniperus bermudiana). We just bought one of each from our local nursery called Wonderland Gardens in Marsh Harbour.  Here is what they looked like when we bought them.
Baby Lignum Vitae
Red Cedar
These two plants are natives that like the native soil, the sunlight and the ocean salt.  According to our book from the Friends of the Environment, Abaco, Bahamas called  " A Guide to native and Invasive Plants in Abaco", both the Lignum Vitae and the Red Cedar plant are protected trees of the Bahamas.  We will be planting them in the next few days.  For the longest time I could not find them in the local plant nurseries and was very pleased to find them available for sale this year.  


  1. Mary

    Excellent post. Perhaps be wary of Seagrape to which I think Jack refers in one of his comments on your original post? (In view of his later post, also be wary of the sound of alarm clocks.)

    I would be interested to hear if the weeded Casuarinas sprout from the stumps or roots left behind. The general recommendation for our main woody weeds (blackberry and briar rose) is to cut them off and then quickly dab the cut surface with glyphosate. That should kill the whole plant.



  2. Martin, The confusion about sea grapes stems from the fact that we speak of two different kinds over here. There is a very well liked native sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera) and then there is the species that is invasive in The Bahamas, the Hawaiian Seagrape (Scaevala taccada, formerly Scaevola frutescens). The Hawaiian Seagrape is not recommended for propagation or sale in The Bahamas.

  3. Also, thank you for your comments and query as to what we do to keep the Australian Pine from sprouting again. I will ask whether there is experience her using glyphosate.

    Thus far, the most effective means I have had for stopping their regrowth is to use a pick axe to get under their roots and then pull them out, roots and all. But it only works for the baby trees. With respect to our big Casuarina that we cut down, it tried to sprout the first year, we hacked it off with a machete, and thus far, in it second year, we see no new sprouts. Time will tell.

  4. I really liked your blog, applause the great information about nursery. This is interactive due to beatifull images.
    Native Australian Plants Toowoomba

  5. The last picture is called sea heather

  6. Thank you, Noah. I will put the correct name under the photo now.