This article was taken from our archives. It first appeared in the January 1953 issue of The Bermudian. It appears here exactly as it did originally.
During the last five years Bermudians have become almost as interested in the tree known, popularly, as the Whistling or Australian Pine, as they are in the native cedar tree. The reason for this is, that the Whistling Pine finds Bermuda a very desirable place to abide and grows with extreme rapidity. It is, therefore, doing its best to fill the gaps in the landscape caused by the death of the native Juniper.
The botanical name of this subject is Casuarina equisetifolia. As already suggested by its common name it is a native of Australia, where it is known as “Iron Wood.” But like the Scotsman it has strayed far from its home and has settled down and adapted itself to the prevailing conditions of most tropical and sub-tropical countries. It is a very graceful tree having green, slender, and more or less drooping branches. The tree is practically leafless, the apparent foliage being the slender green branches.
Young trees are especially attractive; the fresh green shade of the twigs is a very pleasing relief from the dull grey hue of the dead cedar trees. Ultimately the tree will reach a height of 60 to 70 feet. The early plantings of these trees, many of which are now large specimens, are very conspicuous and graceful, standing as they do against the sky line. Trees forty or fifty years of age will have a trunk of about eighteen inches or slightly more in diameter. Occasionally large trees are uprooted during severe wind storms. For this reason the whistling pine should not be planted close to dwelling houses or other buildings, if they are to be allowed to reach their full development.
Fortunately this tree is a very adaptable subject and may be kept to practically any size by judicious pruning. If it is desired to keep the tree at any particular height it may be pruned accordingly. It will also make excellent formal hedges. In this case young planes may be planted at eighteen to twenty-four inches apart. When they reach the desired height of the hedge, four or five feet, the growing tips are cut off at that height. By clipping the plants regularly with hedge shears an exceptionally fine hedge will be the result, fully clothed with foliage from the top down to the ground.
Excellent wind breaks may be grown by planting the Whistling Pine about six feet apart since it will withstand considerable wind and salt spray. In many places in Florida and the West Indies the Whistling Pine may be seen thriving by the sea shore within a few feet of the high tide level. For ornamental purposes this tree is most effective when planted in groups of five to seven trees. Examples of this type of planting will be seen here in the grounds of the Sessions House and again in Bernard Park. The rate of growth of this subject is of interest. Trees at the Agricultural Station which were only fourteen inches high when planted in September 1949 are now about twenty feet high.
It is rather surprising to find that few voluntary seedlings come up around the old trees, when one considers the abundance of seed which is produced by each tree annually. The seed pods resemble small pine cones, rather rough to the touch. In fact the surface of the cones when examined closely, is really a series of protrusions. When the seeds are ripe these protrusions on the surface of the cone open and very thin paper-like seeds fall out. In order to collect the seed of the Whistling Pine the cones must be gathered before they commence to turn brown or before the cone actually opens. By leaving these cones in a box for a few days the cones dehisce and the seeds will fall to the bottom of the box. The seed of this subject germinates in about two to three weeks when sown under ideal conditions.