The generic name Exocarpos was more commonly spelled Exocarpus in the past.
Xylophyllus nanus (Hook.f.) Kuntze
Common Name: Alpine Ballart
Exocarpos nanus is a prostrate, evergreen shrub around 1 metre in diameter, becoming ascending when growing in sheltered places. The leaves are small and scale-like, with most photosynthesis being carried out by the green stems.[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
Australia - northern Tasmania, eastern Victoria, southeastern New South Wales
Growing in bogs and open heath in alpine and sub-alpine tracts, occasionally above the tree line[
Exocarpos nanus is native to the temperate and warm temperate regions of Tasmania and southeast Australia.
A major difficulty if trying to cultivate this species is that, although it photosynthesizes much of its own nutrients, it is also semi-parasitic on the roots of other plants, notably Eucalyptus species. Seeds germinate fairly easily, and cuttings will usually root successfully, but the seedlings and cuttings usually die unless they have root access to a host plant. Exocarpos species generally cause very little harm to the host plant.
Fruit - raw[
]. Not particularly tasty[
]. The dark red, obovoid to obconical fruiting receptacle is 2 - 4mm long[
The edible, fleshy, fruit-like structure is actually an enlarged, succulent section of the flower stalk (receptacle), beyond which the seed and true fruit protrude[
Propagation and establishment of species in this genus is difficult due to the semi-parasitic nature of the plant. Some success has being achieved in propagation from both seed and cuttings, but the plants generally do not survive once planted out[
Sowing the seed in situ near where potential host plants are growing, and protecting the seed with an upturned glass or plastic container would be worth a try. Alternatively, try sowing the seed in a pot where a small potential host is growing - the main disadvantage to this is that the two plants will be in very close proximity and the Exocarpos could be outcompeted.