A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Ironwood Tree

I have walked past this group of trees a hundred times or more and although I have stopped to look at their impressive size it never occurred to me to take a closer look. Situated on a bare piece of ground half-way down the Kalistrata on the left, this is Casaurina equisitifolia or the ironwood tree (she oak, beach oak, beach she-oak, whistling tree, horsetail she oak, horsetail beefwood, horsetail tree, Australian pine, ironwood, whistling pine to name but a few). I counted four specimens.
Several thousand miles from its native land, it must have been planted by a mariner or perhaps somebody from one of the consulates that existed here on Symi a hundred or so years ago.

Casuarina is widely used as a bonsai subject, particularly in South-east Asia and parts of the Caribbean. Indonesian specimens and those cultivated in Taiwan are regarded among the best in the bonsai world. The wood of this tree is used for shingles, fencing, and is said to make excellent, hot burning firewood. Among the islands of Hawaii, Casuarina are also grown for erosion prevention, and in general as wind breaking elements. Like members of the pea family its roots harbour a bacteria in the form of nodes that fix atmospheric nitrogen. Many thanks to the Hollands for bringing this magnificent tree to my attention!



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