Indigenous to South Africa, naturally found in a wide variety of habitats, the Cross berry is named after the shape of the berry which consists of four distinctive lobes.
Evergreen to semi-deciduous, depending on the climate, Grewia occidentalis is a scrambling shrub or small tree, reaching about 3 m in height. The tree has shiny, dark green leaves and produces distinctive star shaped purple flowers during summer, from October to January. The flowers can vary from purple to pink and have a cluster of prominent, bright yellow stamens. The pretty blooms attract butterflies and bees and are followed by green berries which ripen to a brownish colour. The berries may remain on the tree for long periods and are edible for humans and animals alike.
The Cross-berry can be untidy and straggly in the wild, but takes well to clipping. Left naturally it is an ideal tree for Asian style gardens, with its irregularly tiered branch levels and rangy structure. If kept trimmed, it develops a dense branch system which is very good for attracting shy birds like robins.
This tree is frost and drought hardy and the root system is not aggressive. It thrives in either full sun or shade and makes a wonderful hedge or espalier tree. Grewia occidentalis is a fairly fast grower and is an ornamental specimen that will bring colour to the garden. In addition, the Cross berry can be used as a background specimen or screening agent against walls. The tree is a must have for a wildlife friendly garden as it will attract butterflies, insects and birds alike with its flowers and fruit.