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Casuarinaceae R. Br., 1814, nom. cons.
the she-oak family
The name is derived from the Malay word kasuäri, the Cassowary, so named because of the similarity of the foliage to that bird’s plumage. There are only 4 genera with 96 species, found in Australia, the Pacific Islands and South-East Asia, of which 3 genera and 65 species are found in Australia. The leaves are reduced to scale-like teeth in whorls of 4 – 20, separated by portions of branchlets known as ‘articles’; these articles have as many longitudinal ridges, separated by furrows, as there are teeth. The trees may be monoecious or dioecious, but in either case the male inflorescence is a catkin-like spike, the flowers with 1 or 2 hooked, scale-like tepals and 1 stamen, the anther basifixed. The female inflorescence is a small globose or ovoid head, the flowers without a perianth; there are 2 carpels, fused, with 2 (or rarely 4) ovules; the style is reddish and bifid. The female inflorescence develops into a woody infructescence, with the 2 enlarged bracteoles of each flower forming 2 lateral valves, which open when the seed-like samara is ripe.
Older classification systems held this family to be the most primitive of dicotyledonous plants, but the flowers and other primitive-appearing characteristics are now considered to be reduced rather than primitive.
Allocasuarina littoralis - Black She-Oak
Allocasuarina luehmannii - Bull Oak
Casuarina equisetifolia ssp. incana - Casuarina
Photograph © Donald Simpson 2006
Page last updated 2nd December 2014