Forest Friday is looking at the Belah – Causuarina cristata.
“Knowledge is great, understanding is better”
This is a chance for us to explore the different trees we use in our permaculture designs. There is so much to understand about a tree before placing it in a system, and by giving a tree what it needs to thrive, the whole system can benefit from the many design and ecologic functions they provide. Savour Soil uses the Belah – Casuarina cristata in many designs, as a fodder tree, wind break and privacy screen, but there is so much more to this tree.
- Found mainly in Inland Australia, warm temperate + subtropical climates.
- The Belah can be found anywhere up to 800m evelvation.
- Its habit is weeping.
- It responds well to coppicing as it is fast growing.
- Mainly found in stands, open areas, depressions or flats.
- It is easily propagated by seed and can be divided from its many suckers.
- June through to August is time to take cuttings.
- Seed needs to be inoculated with native soil containing Frankia fungi.
Needs, Tolerances + Susceptibilities:
- Belah – Casuarina cristata has evolved to survive hot/dry – developing branchlets instead of leaves.
- It is dioecious, needing both male and female trees, and is wind pollinated.
- It can be unaffected by frost.
- Is found in a wide range of soils, but prefers heavy clay, alkaline soils.
- Does not tolerate deep sandy soil.
- Tolerates rainfall between 400 +700mm p/a.
- Belah is prone to poisoning, by accumulating its own nitrogen and phophorous, it does not need feeding.
- Also prone to inland salinisation.
Charactoristics + Behaviours:
- Belah – Casuarina cristata is a weeping evergreen.
- Growing 10-20m tall with an erect trunk.
- Spring and Autumn it is in flower.
- Self mulching.
- It has branchlets instead of leaves for photosynthesis which help to retain water in dry hot conditions.
- A dense mat of roots fix minerals and atmospheric nitrogenin the soil.
- The foliage touches the ground creating a fantastic wind break + shelterbelt.
- Can be grown under large pines and used for coppicing.
- Animals can use it for shade.
- In times of drought it can be a fodder tree for animals.
- Provides eroision control and builds soil.
- Seed pods can be used for decoration.
- Grazing animals can use it as feed.
- Pole wood for fencing.
- Its timber has a wide dark grain for small carpentry and wood turning.
- It provides excellent fuel as it burns very hot.
- Clubs and boomerangs were made with it by Indigenous Australians.
- It’s bark is rich in tannin.
- The Belah works with Frankia fungi to accumulate minerals, such as phosphorous and fixes atmospheric nitrogen in the soil.
- This fungi is food for bandicoots who spread it via manure to improve soil health.
- Belah builds and nourishes native soil.
- Its dense mat of roots prevent erosion and nutrient loss.
- Supporting a wide range of flora and fauna, for example the Glossy Black Cockatoo who eat the seed pods.
- Belah forms 1.5% of Australian forest.
- It’s name is derived from the Malay word for Cassawary whose feathers resemble the drooping foliage
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