common native-cherry (Exocarpus cupressiformis)
This graceful tree is semi-parasitic, getting nourishment at first from nearby tree roots but becoming more independent with age.
It is similar in appearance to some conifers, especially some cedars, and was perhaps most widely used by early Europeans as a native alternative to the traditional pine Christmas tree (hence its species name 'cupressiformis', referring to its cypress-shape).
Its strange cherry with its external seed was one of the very few native fruits known to early settlers, who came to value its sharp, dry flavour. For Tasmanian Aboriginal people it was one of many edible fruits. Aboriginal people also used the plant’s foliage as a treatment for sores and cuts, its sap for cases of snakebite, while smoke from burning leaves was found to be an effective insect repellent.
Silvereyes, grey currawongs, bronzewings and green rosellas feed on the fruit and disperse the seeds. Thornbills forage in the foliage.
(Photos: Fiona Rice and Australian Society for Growing Australian Plants)
STUDENT INQUIRY QUESTIONS
Native-cherries are very difficult to propagate. Why?
Search for the largest native-cherry in the school's bushland. Can you estimate the diameter of the spread of its foliage? Which nearby tree might have provided its early nourishment?