The Dutch botanist Friedrich Anton Wilhelm Miquel described the belah in 1848, and it still bears its original name. It is called Muurrgu or Murrgu in the Yuwaalaraay dialect of the Gamilaraay language around Walgett in northwestern New South Wales. Belah is an aboriginal name; other common names include scaly-barked casuarina, scrub she-oak, billa, ngaree, bulloak and swamp oak.
Belah grows as a tree reaching 20 metres (35–70 ft) in height and 1 m (3 ft) diameter at breast height (dbh) with dark greyish brown scaly bark, its pendulous branches having a weeping habit. The true leaves are tiny scales along the branchlets.
Distribution and habitat
The range is from Clermont in central Queensland south through to Temora in southern New South Wales. It is an important component of the endangered Brigalow ecological community of inland New South Wales and Queensland. Here it is found as a dominant tree with brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), black gidyea (A. argyrodendron), bimble box (Eucalyptus populnea), Dawson River blackbutt (E. cambageana), E. pilligaensis and the smaller trees such as wilga (Geijera parviflora) and false sandalwood (Eremophila mitchellii) in open forest over mainly Cenozoic clay plains. Other plants it grows with include bonaree (Alectryon oleifolius), sugarwood (Myoporum platycarpum) and nelia (Acacia loderi). On limestone-based soils, it may have a dense understory composed of pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) or black bluebush (M. pyramidata)
- "Casuarina cristata Miq.". Flora of Australia Online. Department of the Environment and Heritage, Australian Government.
- "Casuarina cristata Miq.". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government.
- K. L. Wilson & L. A. S. Johnson. "New South Wales Flora Online: Casuarina cristata". Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Sydney, Australia.
- Cunningham, Geoff M.; Mulham, William E.; Milthorpe, Peter L.; Leigh, John H. (1981). Plants of Western New South Wales. Sydney, New South Wales: NSW Government Printing Service. pp. 207–08. ISBN 0-7240-2003-9.
- Boland, Douglas J.; Brooker, M. I. H.; Chippendale, G. M.; McDonald, Maurice William (2006). Forest trees of Australia. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing. pp. 78–79. ISBN 0-643-06969-0.
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (20 June 2011). "Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla dominant and co-dominant)". Threatened species & ecological communities. Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: Australian Government. Retrieved 2 January 2012.