She Oak, Australian Pine
An absolutely fantastic native for bonsai use which could easily rival the Japanese Black Pine for it's appearance and hardiness. Although it is referred to as the Australian Pine or She Oak it is not related to the pine or Oak families. A straight, upright tree capable of reaching 40 meters in height and possessing rough, fissured, dark gray bark and needle like foliage.
There are over 45 species of the genus Casuarina, pronounced Casuarina (cas-you-a-ry-na). A large evergreen tree resembling conifers and pines, with needle like foliage. The 'needles' are actually multi jointed stalks or branchlets and the inconspicuous foliage occurs between these sections of the stalk. The best for bonsai are; C. cunninghamiana (River She Oak, C equisetifolia (Beach or Coastal She Oak) and C. torulosa (Forest She Oak).
Will take full sun to part shade.
Handles most climates well, even coastal areas and is frost tolerant. Keep moist in the heat of summer.
She Oak are reasonably thirsty trees and should be watered so as to not dry out.
Every style of bonsai is possible with this hardy evergreen. Drastic reduction of foliage is possible as is complete defoliation. Great success has been achieved with cutting back collected trees to bare wood. Ensure these tasks are done just prior to the new seasons growth starts. When cut back the She Oak will develop a mass of re-growth along the trunk so new branches can easily be grown for a complete re-style of a tree. Once your tree is established with nice branching and ramification, remove all other growth and shorten the 'needles' by pulling away the excess. This will not cause browning like cutting does.
C.cunninghamiana growing on the Turon River NSW
Fertilize with fish emulsion monthly during growth periods. Slow release fertilizers like Osmocote should be used at potting time.
Should be carried out just prior to growth periods (early Spring is best) as the buds swell. She Oaks should be root pruned like conifers and the soil/roots immediately around the trunk should not be touched. Add a little extra washed course river sand to your standard bonsai mix for best results.
Close up of flood damage to C. cunninghamiana
They can be grown from cuttings in Autumn or from seeds in Spring but why would you bother when there are an absolute mass of them growing in Australia. I have had excellent success collecting tree's from the banks of rivers, private property and even the side of roads. (Permission should always be obtained from land owners).
PESTS OR DISEASES
Author collecting a Casuarina
Insect pests allegedly include Casuarina tussock moth and cotton locust however I have never had any problems.
The Yamadori Casuarina safely back at home.
If you are not already growing Casuarina as Bonsai then you really should go and get yourself a couple! I predict that She Oaks will become Australia's traditional bonsai species just as the Black Pine is for Japan.