Living at the beach, we are surrounded with salt and sand. Our plants and trees by the seaside have to be tolerant of salty sandy soil, strong winds and salt spray. It is a plus when they can bind sand and slow down erosion during storm season. The sandy soils retain less water and nutrients. The strong winds shred leaves and carry salt sprays that can burn foliage. But like people, there are many beautiful beach loving plants and trees. At our beach side garden, we have grand Australian pine trees, sea grape trees, coconut palms, Florida thatch palms, Florida cabbage palms, screw palms, Chinese fan palms, sea oats, cardboard plants, saw palmetto, Hawaiian beach berry, railroad vines, variegated schefflera, giant beach spider lily, beach flax lily and few others.
The grand trees provide great natural shade in the heat of summer so you don’t need to fuss with tent and umbrella. The palms and low bushes create an exotic tropical flavor. Our grandest tree is the Australian pine with a girth of over 20 feet or so.
Australian pine (Casuarina), love them or hate them? We love these trees. It is native to Australasia, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and islands of the western Pacific Ocean. It’s a tropical evergreen tree that can grow up to 150 feet tall. They are grown to provide shade and act as windbreaks and barriers to slow down beach erosion. These trees somehow got to Florida since the late 1880’s. Yet due to its invasive nature, meaning it adapts and propagate quickly if not properly managed, the state of Florida classified them as “obnoxious non-native.” What a term? I wonder what these trees would say if they can speak and how long do they have to live here to be a native.
If you can forgive the pine needles that are constantly dropping, cover and prevent the growth of weaker plant species; if you can smile and not say “OUCH” when you step on the pine cones barefoot; if you don’t mind daily raking; the trees are self sufficient, graciously whistle in the winds, provide wonderful shades and are home to many wild birds, not to mention an awesome tree house or a couple of tree decks to commune with nature.
Life begins with a tiny lavender flower, then a small green cone. Birds love the seeds of mature cones. Mature cones are brown and spiky after they dispersed their seeds. Then come the baby pines that somehow fight all harsh elements and grow into a grand tree.