Sunday, 3 February 2008

The tall and the short of it

The tallest plant on the Baw Baw plateau is the Snow Gum, but it is still an open forest - lots of herbs and shrubs grow right up to the trunks of the trees.

Snow Gums_Baw Baw

One of the smallest is the Apine Ballart Exocarpus nanus. It is a ground-hugger, spreading to a metre diameter and rooting at the nodes. We were lucky, and very excited, to see it growing in a mossy, boggy area next to a track. And lucky to see it fruiting as well, because it is the fruit that is the most interesting thing about ballarts.

Alpine Ballart

As the name 'nanus' suggests, the plant is tiny, but the fruit looks exactly the same as those I am used to seeing on its big cousin the Cherry Ballart Exocarpus cupressiformis. The succulent red pedicel looks like fruit, and the nut sits on top of it. 'Exocarpus' means 'outside fruit'. Cherry Ballart is semi-parasitic but I don't know about the Alpine Ballart.

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