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    One More Reason To Like An Invasive Species
    By Enrico Uva | March 6th 2012 06:12 PM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

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    It was during a walk along the US1 in Juno Beach, Florida that I became aware of the Australian pine, a so-called invasive species. Not far from my home back in St-Laurent, Quebec, there's a protected wooded area where the "invasive species" is the European buckthorn, and one summer, city workers systematically turned them into mulch. 

    First introduced to North America as an ornamental shrub, the buckthorn, with its copious seed production and tolerance to a wide range of moisture and light conditions, easily invades habitats. (One seed even reached my backyard, where a tree now stands!) Groups of buckthorns create a fair amount of shade, compromising biodiversity. 

    It turns out that the Australian Pine isn't really a pine. In fact, it's not even a conifer but a flowering plant belonging to the genuis Casuarina. Three of its species were introduced in Florida about a hundred years ago, and they spread like rabbits in Australia. Their competitive edge came from the fact that, unlike indigenous species, Casuarina plants are akin to beans and clover. They are members of the Leguminosae family and their symbiotic bacteria fix nitrogen in return for tree sugars.

    Reasons to remove the trees from Florida include:

    (1) They have apparently replaced over 370 000 acres(about 600 square miles) of native Florida plants.

    (2) In Sanibel, for example, after only three years of removing them, the number of native species in an area jumped from 14 to 86, providing a better habitat for wildlife.

    (3) They are responsible for structural damage after hurricanes.

    (4) They have taken over valuable agricultural lands.

    But some people feel the eradication campaign has been a little overzealous and is overlooking the fact that:

    (1) Most native trees are just as likely to be toppled during storms.
    (2) Australian pines provide nesting habitats to eagles, hawks, owls and herons.
    (3) The trees require no fertilizer and so are suitable in picnic areas and on some private urban properties.

    Add to that my own reason(4): Australian pines contain the wonderful compound casuarictin. So what, you may ask, especially if you are a Floridian conservationist! From a single molecule of this tannin, five gallic acid molecules can be derived.











    Gallic acid is similar enough in structure to mescaline that it was the starting material for the classic 1951 synthesis of that drug but more importantly, gallic acid has anti-cancer properties that are still being investigated. To be fair, casuarictin is not the only source of gallic acid.

    Although not all tannins are esters of gallic acid or hydrolyzable, meaning that they can be reverted to their parent carboxylic acid with acid and water, there are other sources such as tannic acid.

    Sources:

    http://www.mysanibel.com/Departments/Natural-Resources/Vegetation-Information/Exotic-Vegetation/Australian-Pines
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tannin and other wiki articles
    http://australianpines.org/facts.cfm

    Comments

    Thank you for recognizing the GOOD things about Australian pines! - Friends of the Pines

    UvaE
    Thank you. I like exploring the full spectrum of environmental issues.
    Gerhard Adam
    Mescaline AND anti-cancer?  What better combo?
    Mundus vult decipi