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Filao (Casuarina equisetifolia) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura
Filao (Casuarina equisetifolia) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Agnès Iatzoura

Filao tree

Known as Filao, the Casuarina is a name given in reference to the cassowary, a bird whose plumage resembles the drooping nature of the filao. Its wood, which is called “ironwood” is very resistant and is used to make tiki.

Identity Card

Common name
Filao tree, Australian pine tree, iron wood, coastal she-oak
Binominal name
Casuarina equisetifolia J.R. & G. Forst.



Detailed Informations

Area of origin
Indonesia, Malaysia, South Pacific islands, Australia


Casuarina is a name given in reference to the Cassowary bird (Casuarius in Latin) whose plumage evokes the drooping aspect of the tree’s foliage. Equisetifolia means "with leaves resembling horsetail grass".

Description and flowering period

This tree reaches 30 meters in height. In mature subjects, its greyish-brown, deeply furrowed bark flakes into oblong pieces. Its crown shape resembles that of a pine tree despite the tree not being a conifer. Its branchlets are drooping needle-like terete with prominent angular ribs, similar to those of horsetails – hence the name. The persistent greyish-green leaves are minute and squamous (scale-like). The female inflorescence is a reddish glomerule (a dense cluster of sessile flowers) whereas the male flowers are grouped into brown catkin-like spikes at the extremities of the branchlets. The tree’s pollen is wind-borne and can cause allergies. After pollination, the female flowers’ bracts merge together to produce a spherical cone-like structure which contains numerous reddish-brown winged seeds propagated by wind.


It grows in sandy soils, even poor and salt-affected soils, in full sun. It is highly tolerant to sea-sprays and strong winds.


  • Traditional craftsmanship: Its wood, referred to as iron wood due to its hardness, is used to make Tikis (traditional Polynesian carvings), wooden brain-teasers, spears, furniture, picket-fences as well as Polynesian dug-out boats. Its roots are used to create fish hooks.
  • Miscellaneous: It is used for firewood, charcoal and as a Christmas tree. It is also widely planted to control coastal erosion.


Its root system harbours atmospheric nitrogen fixing nodules, allowing to thrive in extremely poor soils.
Photosynthesis occurs within in the branchlets’ internodes.
Few species are capable of growing beneath these

Translated by: François Saint-Hillier – MNHN

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