A shaggy plant story

I'm not sure which cultivar name best reflects the attributes of this rather mournful yet alluring she-oak. I think of it as the 'little weeping she-oak'. But that wouldn't sell.

Smarter marketing minds have settled on Cousin It, Kattang Karpet and Shagpile. More prosaically, and very tentatively, we use 'prostrate fine form' on our garden labels at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.

Whatever you call it, we grow this low hung Casuarina at Cranbourne Gardens, draping over a dividing wall, and at Melbourne Gardens, flanking the entrance path to Guilfoyle's Volcano.

I first saw it at the Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, just south of Sydney. I was told then that the Australian Botanic Garden was the source of most, if not all, prostrate cultivars in cultivation. The name used there is 'Kattang Karpet'.

The parent species, Casuarina glauca, or Swamp Oak, grows at the side of coastal streams and river valleys in New South Wales and Queensland (and occasionally established in Victorian bushland). It can be a tree up to 20 or so metres tall, or a stumpy shrub to a couple of metres.

In 1998, a horticulturist from Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney, which includes the Australian Botanic Garden, found a prostrate growth form hanging off the edge of a cliff in Kattang Nature Reserve, near Port Macquarie. Get it? Kattang Karpet...

Cuttings were grown up at the Australian Botanic Garden nursery and planted out in their Connections Garden, which is where I saw them. That's the creation story on the Trust's website. And this is our wall-hugging display at Cranbourne Gardens.

Australian Gardens, Cranbourne Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

The Australian National Botanic Gardens website tells another story. A prostrate form was found in Bulli, south of Sydney and near Booderee National Park, and cuttings were grown up at the National Botanic Gardens in 1989. In this case, the cultivar name 'Cousin It' was applied.

In late 2010, Plant Breeders Rights were sought for a prostrate form of Casuarina glauca emerging from a single seed out of 500 sown in a nursery on the outskirts of Sydney. This plant was named 'CAS01', so I take back my comment about the name on our plant label being prosaic.

There are presumably multiple origins, from the wild or perhaps (as I hear from time to time) from cultivation. The name 'Shagpile' seems to have been added later, to a plant of unknown origin.

Whatever the source, this variant (or these variants) are infertile so need to be propagated from cuttings. That also presumably maintains its distinctive carpeting or mop-like habit. Now there's another idea for a name, 'the Melbourne mop'. Which is why I'm not in marketing.

Guilfoyle's Volcano, Melbourne Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria