Australia and Southeast Asia
Brought in late 1800s for ditch and canal stabilization, shade, and lumber
Australian pine is a deciduous tree that looks like a soft, wispy pine and grows to more than 100 feet tall. It has thin branchlets resembling pine needles, and tiny brown flowers. The reddish-brown bark is brittle and peels. Fruits are tiny nutlets contained in small, round, cone-like structures, 3/4 inches long.
Many people admire Australian pines and appreciate the shade they provide. However, the ecological harm and storm damage they cause overshadow their value as a shade tree.
Australian pines grow fast and form dense stands, shading out native plants that need sunlight to grow. Their shallow roots do not trap sand as native dune plants do, so they can increase beach erosion. They take over the nesting areas of endangered sea turtles and threatened American crocodiles. Fewer bird species nest in or eat from Australian pine compared to native trees. Australian pines frequently blow over during high winds, causing major damage during storm season.
In places where the snails do not have enough calcium in the environment to build their shells, they have been known to eat the stucco off houses and the paint off cars! When crossing roads at night, adult snails are a hazard to drivers because their large, hard shells can puncture tires. The snails are also considered a public health threat, as their slime is home to the parasitic rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus sp.) which can cause meningitis.
Australian pines are a common sight along shorelines and in parks and natural areas throughout southern and central Florida. They are found in open, coastal habitats including sand beaches, rocky coasts, and sand dunes.