The hidden bonsai: Casuarina

By August 23, 2017 No Comments


One tree species that can easily be turned to a bonsai and is indeed not so popular with bonsai enthusiast is the Casuarina tree (Casuarina Equisetifolia).  It is also called the Australian-Pine tree.  The casuarina can be an ideal species for newcommers in bonsai, mostly in Malta, due to our local weather.  This forgotten species is a hidden bonsai by most enthusiasts.  In Asia though, it is a species that is very popular.  Others might see this species as a cheap bonsai.

Casuarina in the wild

We will divide this blog into two parts:

  1. Information about the casuarina species
  2. Hands on casuarina trees (next blog)

Section 1: The Casuarina species

The casuarina genus is native to Australia and the east indies, is divided up to 45 species divided into evergreen shrubs and trees that can grow up to 35m in height.  Soft grey-green scale like leaves called branchlets, forms the foliage of the casuarina, that means that the scale like leaves will turn to twigs and then to branches when maturing.  The fruit of this tree looks like a conifer cone, containing a single seed to the numerous carpels that forms the cone.  Each seed has a small wings that helps the seed to spread with the use of wind.

Casuarina branchlets with seed cones

Although the casuarina loves sandy soil, it can easily adopt to different kind of soil material consisting of different pH from 5.0 to 7.7. such as saline, calcareous, volcanic or plain soils.  It can also adopt itself to a sterile soil, but will appreciate fertilisers. This species is used as a windbreaker or to provide shade and privacy on a beach front due to its salt resistant.  This species loves full sun, and in a dry situation, it will shed the old branchlets.

Other positive features of the casuarina are that the can easily be prunned and they act possitively to grafting, two important features to turn a species into a bonsai.

Casuarina as a bonsai

Although the casuarina is very flexible to adopt as a bonsai, and has nearly the right ingredients, it is not very popular about professional bonsai growers.  That is why we named this article as the hidden bonsai.  The Japanese prefare their black pines or their junipers, and most of the world follows.  The Indonesian bonsai community are very well trained and famous for training the casuarina.  The trunk offers great textures and can be bent in various styles, and the best thing for a bonsai artist, is, that it can thicken faster than a pine or a juniper.  This makes it more user friendly to new comers.  Another feature is that it back buds very easily.

Casuarina as an Informal bonsai style

Let’s point out some good reasons why casuarina is good species to train as bonsai.

  1. Casuarina  trees can easily adopt to nearly al styles of bonsai.
Casuarina as a Cascade bonsai style
  1. Reducing the branchlets size is possibe by full defoliation system.
  2. Can be placed in full to partial sun, and can handle most climates.

It is important to keep these points in mind when training a casuarina as a bonsai.

  1. Avoid that the pot will dry out, so watering is essential.
  2. Fertilise during the growing season with fish bone meal or fish emulsion.
  3. Repotting should be carried out between February-March.
  4. Root and foliage prunning should be carried out like conifers.

Follow Part 2 in our next blog


Martin Abela

Author Martin Abela

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