The generic name Exocarpos was more commonly spelled Exocarpus in the past.
Xylophyllos sparteus (R.Br.) Kuntze
Exocarpos glandulaceus Miq.
Exocarpos spicatus A.DC.
Exocarpos pendulus F.Muell.
Common Name: Broom Ballart
Exocarpos sparteus is an evergreen shrub or small tree with a weeping crown; it can grow up to 4 metres tall, often with more than one stem. 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 - scattered throughout the mainland, esp. in central Australia, southwestern W. Australia, southeastern S. Australia and western Victoria
Found in many habitats including coastal and desert sand dunes and on plains[
]. Mallee communities on sandy soils[
Exocarpos sparteus is widespread through Australia, growing in a range of climatic zones including warm temperate, Mediterranean, arid and sub-arid.
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[
]. Sweet and succulent. The red or pink, depressed-spherical, fruiting receptacle is about 2mm 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.