Plant of the month – Cherry Ballart

Who doesn’t love a good, juicy cherry? Well, what if we told you that there’s a native cherry found throughout Victoria!? But, unlike the cherries you’re probably familiar with, this native cherry grows its seed on the outside.

The Cherry Ballart is a small tree that kind of looks like a European cypress. It has soft, drooping green branches and teeny tiny leaves. This plant is a partial parasite. It uses the sun to make its own energy (through photosynthesis) but collects extra nutrients to grow big and strong by tapping into the roots of its neighbours – kind of like eating your own food at recess and then taking your friend’s lunchbox when they aren’t looking!

Credit: John Tann, 2012, Flickr

The small, edible red fruit isn’t exactly a fruit: it’s a swollen stem. Unusually, the seed grows on the outside of the fruit. You can hold the seed while you bite the sweet and salty fruit off. Apparently, Cherry Ballart have the highest sugar levels of any native fruits in Southern Victoria. Who knew that stems could be so delicious?

Credit: John Tann, 2012, Flickr

Humans aren’t the only ones who love Cherry Ballart. Birds like Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas snack on the juicy fruits. Some caterpillars like to munch on the leaves of the plant too.

Native cherry trees have strong, tough wood and bark. Wadawurrung people find this useful for making spear throwers and coolamons. Coolamons are small dishes that can be used to carry all sorts of things, even babies!

Wadawurrung people and other Traditional Owner groups in southern Victoria often use the soft, green branches and stems for smoking ceremonies. These ceremonies are a special part of welcoming you to Country, where you are invited to share the land while caring for it as your own.