Exocarpos fruits NATIVE CHERRY  -  Exocarpos cupressiformis
Exocarpos (from the Greek exeo= outside, carpos=fruit)
Family Santalaceae (Sandalwood)

The Tasmanian tree known locally as the Native Cherry looks nothing like a cherry tree; it has more the appearance of a cypress or Casuarina but  is not related to these trees either. It is also a partial parasite on other plants but it is not a Mistletoe, although distantly related. There are 10 Exocarpos species in Australia and all but one is endemic. Tasmania has 5 species but E. cupressiformis is the most widespread and obvious and found as an understorey tree of open Eucalypt forest and woodland in the eastern two-thirds of the state, often in drier and better drained situations. E.Cupressiformis is an emerald green to bronze, elegantly shaped tree between 3 and 8 metres high, perhaps more if there is sufficient water available.                                                                                                                  Exocarpos cupressiformis  E.stricta fruit E.cupressiformis fruit
Leaves are scale-like, and the flowers microscopic and usually only one at the tip of each spray is fertile. The fruit pedicel is more like a swollen cylinder surrounding the seed and is orange/red in colour when ripe. Another form E. Stricta, is an open straggly shrub; the leaf sprays are not compact as in Cupressiformis, and the drupes start out green and ripen through a deep red colour to white and blue. The fruits are sweet and palatable to birds, animals and us! One of Nature’s many ways to encourage the spread of seed although Exocarpos more often propagates itself from root suckers and so the trees can be found in lines or multi-stemmed. Like many members of the Santalaceae family, Exocarpos is a root parasite although it has branchlets with photosynthesising abilities. It develops a specialised organ called a haustorium which grows out from the root and obtains nutrients direct from the host, always another woody plant, but it is not an obvious parasite and usually has no adverse affects on surrounding vegetation. Its biological peculiarities make it a species to be valued as cultivation is almost impossible, which is a pity as it could have great potential as an ornamental plant.  In the early days of  European settlement the timber was used for making cabinets and today, even golf clubs. Woodturners use it under the name “cherry pine”.

Research - Philip Milner
and Joy Coghlan.

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