Trying to grow Australian Pines

rhincheeMarch 10, 2008

I know this is politically incorrect but I would really like to get a stand of Australian Pines (Casuarina) established between my house and the Gulf. I live in a Gulf front ground level house that was damaged and almost destroyed by the storm surge in Hurricane Dennis. I have been researching vegetation that will absorb wave energy and hold onto the sand to plant in front of my house. I have already planted a lot of sea oats but I know from experience they have a limited ability to hold sand and no ability to absorb wave energy in a hurricane. They do help build dunes and that helps but I think Australian Pines would be better, and there is room for them between the sea oats and the house.

In my research I found that Australian Pines are valued for beach plants in south Asia for protection from both cyclones (what they call hurricanes) and tsunami protection. This seems counter to a lot of what you find in the Florida literature, but most of what is published there about Australian Pines is pretty negative. And the Asian studies are pretty scientific most of what I have found in the Florida literature on Australian Pines and beach erosion is unsupported claims that they can make it worse, I doubt that is true. I have a neighbor who had a stand of 30 year old Australian Pines on the beach by his house and they weathered the storm surge much better than anything else did, so I have empirical evidence as well.

I am in Franklin County in North Florida, well north of where Australian Pines are invasive species. In fact they are very rare here and the one stand I mentioned my neighbor has is the only one I have ever seen up here, I guess it is too cold unless you are right on the water. I can also say that their trees have not spread in 30 years, so no invasion here.

That was a long story but I thought it might be necessary, whenever I ask about this people automatically respond that its a bad idea, I just wanted yÂall to know that I have thought it through and am convinced it will help me out.

Does anyone have experience with either buying or propagating Australian Pines in Florida? I have not been able to find a source of plants anywhere. I did find a nursery in California that ships them, but when they found out I was in Florida they refused. I have ordered seeds on line from a number of sources but have had no luck getting them to germinate and live. My neighbor has offered to let me take whatever cuttings I want and I have been trying that with limited success. Last year I dug up about a 20 of his young trees, and tried all kinds of different ways to root cuttings. Out of maybe 200 attempts I have 5 living plants and the frustrating thing is that there seems to be no consistency in what lives and what doesnÂt. I tried different sizes, different rooting media, and different planting depths but nothing seems to work very well. Three of the live plants are from cuttings and two from the young trees I tried to transplant. My neighbor is generous but I hate to keep digging up every young sprout that appears in his yard, I would really like to figure out how to get more of the cuttings to survive. Any and all suggestions are welcome.


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They grow them in Sarasota successfully for that purpose but having them in your yard...I dunno. I've got them and they are horrible things: attract mosquitos, drop those strands, and sucker all over--quickly! I'd think you could just take cuttings from some and place them along the water and they'd take hold. But I wouldn't suggest it if you could use anything else!

    Bookmark   March 12, 2008 at 12:32PM
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"I'd think you could just take cuttings from some and place them along the water and they'd take hold."

No, that does not work, I've tried and tried watering extensively and digging a hole and putting potting soil in it and still no luck. Is there anyone out there with actual experience.

I know these are an invasive problem further south but up here they are very rare and don't spread, it's too cold. They only seem to grow in certain microclimates right on the beach. I also know the down side to them, but I see this as a choice between a plant some people don't like and losing my house in the next hurricane.

Anyone with experience with Austrailian Pines out there?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2008 at 4:16PM
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They can absorb wind but they also are shallow rooted and fall over easily. I would never plant one near my home, though I think they are beautiful (We have a house on the Gulf Coast). There are many reasons that they are 'politically incorrect' - And it is also illegal to plant them in Florida.
They were originally imported to Florida to act as windbreaks, but like many things done with the best intentions, they have caused more harm than good.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2008 at 2:00PM
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I could almost swear there use to be Australian pines along the beach side of Hwy 98 in the Port St. Joe, Cape San Blas areas and around Appalach. In fact I am sure there were some at the state picnic tables in PCB and north along SR 79 at the picnic park (gone now) either above Bonifay or Vernon. I do know the roots grow out of the ground but I'm not sure how deeply the roots grow. When I was in Hue-Phu Bai, South Vietnam we took a direct hit (the eye came right over us) from Typhoon Hester and I don't remember any of the Australian pines going down and that was just about the only (real) trees we had on base. We lost lots of banana trees. I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2008 at 11:38PM
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mistiaggie(z9A Tx)

Illegal to Plane Australian Pine

Honestly, if I was your neighbor, I'd turn you in. Sorry. Find something else, PLEASE!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2008 at 4:34PM
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Several years ago when all the hurricanes hit Florida we lost our dune and the sea oats growing on them---they ended up in our backyard. We too looked into what could preserve the dune in the future. We saw that a lot of Australian pines had gotten uprooted and heard that they were a danger to houses if planted close. The root system of sea oats is not deep/widespread enough to hold the dune. However, we also noticed that the houses that had seagrapes tended to do better as far as holding most of the dune in place and reducing the debris from the ocean so we chose to plant them in the back close to our dune. We have not had a chance to test them out yet (keeping fingers crossed). You might want to try them.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2008 at 3:53PM
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doc2379(8b/9 Fl gulfside)

How is the Australian Pine thing going? I live in Franklin County, Fl. also and I, too, think the Australian Pines are pretty and useful. Share what you've learned.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2008 at 9:50PM
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Irma_StPete(z9 FL)

Yes, how's it going planting them in north Florida? Here in mellow central Fla on the gulf, the ones on our beaches had to be taken out in the 1960s or 1970s after 3 freeze years in a row - too brittle. But maybe that was freak weather and had we replanted we'd have beautiful tall shady ones by now. They spell "childhood beach days" to me and always will. I would probably plant them if I had beach property - despite everything!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 12:33PM
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andrew101(Zone 9)


I have an extensive amount of Casuarina equisetifolia(Australian Pine) on my lakefront property. I used a number of 1"-2" branches about 4' high to make a fence and they rooted and sprouted. This wasn't my intent so I removed them.

My grandfather planted 2 rows of 40 trees on 110' of lake front to protect his home from hurricanes in 1940. The trees have been there for 69 years now.

I understand the state of Florida's position on native vs. non-native invasive plants. As a scoutmaster I sponsored numerous Eagle Scout projects for removal of invasives. So, I get it.

However, there are indeed two sides to the story. The roots of the trees on my property have been home to an 8 indigo which is an endangered species that has been on the property for about 15 years. I love this snake as it keeps all other snakes off my property.

Additionally, these trees withstood all of the big hurricanes that ripped through Central Florida and provided tremendous wind break of several 75 year old live oaks. The live oaks on adjacent property without Casuarina were destroyed.

As a deterrent for erosion, they have been spectacular. My adjacent neighbors removed trees that were also planted by my grandfather prior to selling the land. Both neighbors have lost almost 15 of shore line and have had to build seawalls to protect their homes.

While the state can prevent me from propagating, transporting etc. I have determined that with the new house I am building on the property, that I will thin, top and keep a portion of the Casuarina.

I doubt that if your neighbor has Casuarina that the state would do much if you grow them too. But the non-native plant people usually cant even engage in a decent discussion.SO one of them might rat you out. A friend of mine is removing Casuarina for the St. John Water management. They indeed cut down the trees but keep the roots on the cannels to prevent erosion. So maybe we only like the roots. Oops, they kill sea turtles

    Bookmark   February 27, 2009 at 8:21PM
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Australian pines are a windstorm hazard. Ask anyone who has been though Florida hurricanes to name the most common downed huge tree that was blocking the road after a storm... After hurricanes, the roads are impassable with those trees lying all over.

I also think that AP trees are attractive, but Florida holly (AKA Brazilian pepper - horrendously invasive) is attractive as well. We shouldn't always choose the prettiest plant.

Other trees are safer and more effective erosion control - seagrape has been mentioned. Grows faster, is native, and is certainly the more environmentally responsible choice.

In Florida since 1960,

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 7:09PM
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i picked up the cones out of seaweed on the beach in the keys fla 10 yrs ago and took them home to n.y. every seed i planted germinated and i grew several plants in pots for a few years one by one they died until i figured out that they neede to keep their feet wet. the last one i had lived several years with thepot sittin in a pan of water. sadly it was finaly killed during a power failure on a cold winter nite in my sunroom along with all of my tropical an most of my subtropicals.there were thousands of cones on the beach i am going to post in the seed exchange to trade for some and try again hope they arent illegal to ship

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 9:50PM
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I have had some success and learned a lot about growing Australian Pines in North Florida. I had no success with rooting cuttings, even tried air layering and got only 1 survivor out of 10 tries.

What worked was transplanting I looked around the area and found more living APs than I had thought were here. As they get older they propagate from the roots. I found that by digging some of these up and putting them in pots with a mix of sand and potting soil for 6 months or so and then planting worked 90% of the time.

No nursery was willing to even consider helping me get them. But the owner of one of the local places did help with advice, but only after we spent a lot of time talking about it. I'm not sure I made an AP convert but she was less concerned when she saw that they really are not an invasive problem up here, and that they did seem to offer more protection than anything else in the hurricanes.

In this area they only survive right on the beach and then can get knocked back or killed by a hard freeze. Even a few hundred yards inland they can't take the cold. Last year several of the older ones in the area were killed by the cold, even within sight of the Gulf. Not much risk of an invasion here. I would only try planting them on the beach. I did try sea grapes as someone suggested but they can't survive our winters, all dead.

So far they do seem to be serving the intended purpose, they are growing larger and more healthy than anything else on the beach. They also appear to be putting out a very healthy root mat which I hope will hold the sand in our next hurricane. I keep them cut down to about 4' high and they make attractive shrubs (I think so anyway) and being closer to the ground I think helps in a freeze. Freezing seems to keep them shorter here than South Florida, so they are less likely to blow over in a storm. That may be part of why they did well in the storms. But I think it's the impressive root mat and network providing protection from erosion that I think is their best quality.

Hope I don't get the chance, but if we have another hurricane I will report back on how they fair. I think they will work out, in every case I have found they did better on the beach than anything else in the 05/06 hurricanes.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 6:40AM
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Hello, I am just buying a gulf front home in Bay County. Do you know any good sources of information for erosion control and maintaining an ocean front home.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 9:59PM
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The web is full of em, just do google searches under things like "beach erosion". I've owned a Gulf front house for 20 years and out of necessity have studied the problem for that whole time (I am also a civil engineer so have some technical background). I can tell you that beach erosion is a local problem, that is what happens to your beach is unique to your specific spot. The stuff on the internet is more general or about other locations and may or may not help you. It is a good way to get educated on the subject.

The hands down best way to protect a house from beach erosion is a solid well engineered rock wall. But in Florida they are no longer allowed, except in certain circumstances, and for good reason, a rock wall in front of your house can increase erosion of your neighbors. Groins (call jetties in Florida) are very effective, but have been totally outlawed in Florida, for similar reasons, they can just displace the erosion down the beach. I am not so sure they should be totally banned, but they are. Beach re-nourishment is another option, but it is expensive and can only be done by a community over miles of beach, not something the individual homeowner can do.

Vegetation can help, but there are limits as to how much. Sea oats are the standard, and sea oats do a good job of dune building. But I can tell you from personal experience they do not have a good root structure and wash away quickly in a hurricane storm surge. There is another beach grass, I don't know what it is called, it's about the same size as a sea oat but the seeds look different. It has a bit better root structure, but I have never seen them for sale, the ones on my beach just came up. I keep my beach from the house to the water very well fertilized, I use 10-10-10 fertilizer every month or two. As a result I have a lot more beach vegetation than my neighbors, and it does catch more wind blown sand. I just started doing this a few years ago so it is yet to be tested in a storm. And as I have said here I am cultivating an Australian pine hedge between my house and the Gulf as a barrier. I am sure all this will help, just not sure how much. Sand fences can help too.

Problem is the real causes of beach erosion are in the water, currents and offshore sand sources and sinks, not what happens on the land. So all the vegetation and sand fencing in the world can't have a huge impact, it just slows the erosion a bit.

Good luck, on the beach in Bay County is nice!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 6:50AM
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Please don't grow APs. They are illegal in Florida for a reason and I am at least given some hope by the stories that nursuries would not help get them or ship them into the state.
Aside from all of their other negative aspects, there is no mention in any of these posts of the allelopathic properties of AP which alter the soil chemistry where they grow and inhibit the growth of native plants establishing a monoculture.
And please don't help it spread by promoting it in central to north Florida. It may seem safe now, like it doesn't spread and won't get out of hand becuase of the cold, but there are too many cases of non-native introductions that take some time to get acclimated and then become as invasive as they are in other areas.
If you care about the amazing biodiversity of this state why would you promote something that has been documented to do terrible ecological damage when there are native solutions?
Florida is #2 in the US for damage by invasive species, and invasive species are one of the top threats of our time to biodiversity.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 2:57PM
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