The generic name Exocarpos was more commonly spelled Exocarpus in the past.
Exocarpos leptomerioides F.Muell. ex Miq.
Xylophyllos aphyllus (R.Br.) Kuntze
Common Name: Leafless Ballart
Exocarpos aphyllus is a much-branched, shrub or a small tree growing up to 5 metres tall. The leaves are small and scale-like, soon falling from the plant, with most photosynthesis being carried out by the young stems[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food and medicine.
Australia - southern and western Western Australia, southern South Australia, northern Victoria, New South Wales, southeast Queensland.
Found in various habitats including coastal dunes, eucalypt woodland and shrubland; growing in rocky loam, clay-loam and calcareous soils[
]. Sandy soils in inland areas in all mainland states[
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.
The plant can flower through most of the year, except for the middle of summer and the middle of winter. Fruits can also be available for much of the year.
Fruit stalk - raw. Sweet and palatable when fully ripe, it is rather astringent beforehand[
]. The red, depressed-obovoid fruiting receptacle is 1 - 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[
A decoction of the mashed stems is taken internally in the treatment of colds and sores[
A poultice made from the mashed stems has been applied to the chest in the treatment of 'wasting disease' (tuberculosis)[
Extracts of the bark and stem of this plant were found to possess antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.The active compounds are believed to be phenolic compounds[
Extracts of the bark and stems possess antiinflammatory activity. The active compounds were the triterpenes betulin, betulinic acid and oleanolic acid[
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.