Plant of the month: May

STIFF CHERRY

(Exocarpus aphyllus)

(Photos: E. Cousins, plant; C. Schultz, close-up of stem, at Cape Jervis)

This plant is from the same family as the quandong (Santalaceae) though you wouldn’t think so from the differences in the fruit or foliage!

Aphyllus’ is from the Greek, meaning ‘without leaves’. There are in fact leaves on the thick, rigid branches, but they are TINY (less than 1mm), more like scales!  And expecting a cherry-like fruit or two? Try a small black ovoid (egg-shape) with a squashed creamy-red base (hence ‘Exocarpus’:outside the nut’). Even the yellow flower clusters are small, at less than 4mm. These are present over spring and early summer, and protrude from the branches on short stalks. Tiny leaves, tiny flowers, tiny fruit… yet the olive-green bush can grow over 3.5m tall, with heaps of branches! Although common in many other parts of Australia, it is classed as ‘vulnerable’ on the Fleurieu Peninsula.