Native Cherry, Coastal Ballart (Exocarpos syrticola)
Common names: Coastal Ballart, Coast Ballart
Taxonomic name: Exocarpos syrticola
Habitat: Coastal areas, sand and limestone outcrops
Form: Bush to small tree
Flowering Time: Spring to early Summer
Ngarrindjeri name: Panpandii
Coastal Ballart, or ‘Native cherry’ (Exocarpos syrticola) is a common plant along the coasts of Southern Australia.
It’s an interesting plant, the many pink branches and branchlets and leaves that seem to merge into each other are ridged and grooved and are easily mutated, sometimes joining together in lumps and flat plate like structures. The I find their flexibility fascinating. Leaves are scale-like The branches are usually green, but where we go, are often pink-orange. They look like they should be spiky but are often soft and pliable. A bushes small flowers are similar in colour to the branches (pink – green or yellow – green). The plant is very variable in height, books say up to 3 metres, but I’ve never seen one that tall.
Like the rest of the Santalaceae Family, Coastal Ballart is a parasitic plant, needing to attach itself to another plant to obtain water and some nutrients.
Flowering time is October to December, followed by fruit usually around late November, when white and pink berries are produced that are quite tasty, though they can be astringent if not quite ripe.
It’s interesting that with these berries, the seed is on the outside. The part we eat is an enlarged part of the flower stem. That’s where it gets its name ‘Exo’ = outside, ‘carpos’ = ‘fruit’. Quite literally, it means ‘seed on the outside’. This is something it has in common with it’s close relative, the Native Cherry, or Ballart, Exocarpos cupressiformis.