The generic name Exocarpos was more commonly spelled Exocarpus in the past.
Exocarpos bidwillii is a much-branched, evergreen shrub with rigid, more or less procumbent branches; the branches can be up to 60cm long. The leaves are reduced to persistent triangular black scales barely up to 0.5mm long, most photosynthesis being carried out by the stems[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
New Zealand northern South Island.
Open areas, mainly in rocky places in the montane to alpine zones[
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 stalk - sweet and palatable when fully ripe, astringent otherwise[
]. The red, succulent flesh is up to 10mm wide[
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.