Grewia-licious – the indigenous edible shrubs you should have in your garden:

by Life Green Group and BotSoc

These six Grewia species of South Africa are not only a must have for a bird garden; attracting hordes of fruit-eating birds, the fruits they produce are also edible for humans. In traditional cultures the fruit of certain Grewia species are used to brew alcohol and eaten as a sweet treat.

All of the Grewia species are incredibly resilient and easy-going and a must have for any South African garden.The Grewia species was named after English physician Nehemiah Grew and form part of the Malvaceae family.

Life Landscapes, the landscaping division of Life Green Group uses them as screen plants and they make for attractive shrubbery with their yellow or pink flowers.

Mauve flowering Grewia species

Cross-berry (Grewia occidentalis)

The cross-berry has an incredible wide range across South Africa. The cross-berry is the tallest Grewia reaching six metres and 10 metres in ideal conditions. It does need some shear work to stay neat and tree-like. It is a rewarding shrub that flowers pinky-mauve blossoms all year round.

The fruits are consumed ravenously by bulbuls, barbets, mousebirds and other fruit loving birds. Humans can use the fruit to ferment beer and when dried and added to milk it makes for an excellent milk sweetener. In Zulu culture the wood of the cross-berry is used to make Assegai spears.

Read more about indigenous purple flowering trees by clicking here.

Karoo crossberry (Grewia robusta)
Grewia robusta

Like the cross-berry the karoo crossberry also has wonderful bright pink blossoms that flower from August to December. The Grewia robusta is frost resistance and adaptable to all soil types, it does prefer a desert-like setting. It is best to grow them in moist clay and loamy soils and partially shady areas.

It makes for a good screen plants and a super addition to a bird garden. Its plum-like fruits have an acid tinge to them and are pleasant to eat, both cooked and raw.

Yellow flowering Grewia species

Brandybush (Grewia flava)
Grewia flava ©Bernard Dupont

The brandybush gets its name because its fruit can be distilled into a type of brandy or beer. This is the smallest of the South African Grewia species. It does not have an aggressive root system making it a good garden specimen. In the North West, Northern Cape and Limpopo wild animals rely on it for food. It has grey leaves that contrast its bright yellow flowers and spreads readily.

White raisin (Grewia bicolor)

The white raisin is a frost-hardy shrub that gets to nine metres. It can grow in most soils and is a water-wise choice. Its gets the second part of its Latin name from its bicolour leaves which are lighter on the bottom and darker on the top. The canary yellow flowers of the white raisin are smaller than the rest of the Grewia species and bloom from October to March.

Time to give the more tropical, less frost hardy, Grewias some yellow press:

Sandpaper raisin (Grewia flavescens)

Grewia flavescens

The sandpaper raisin, like the brandybush, also has a sunny disposition with its sweetly perfumed, bumblebee yellow flowers.  It is tough and adaptable relies on wild animals for germination.  It can handle all types of soil and prefers a more temperate environment like the giant raisin. It is multi-stemmed and makes for a wonderful screen plant.

In Namibia the fruit is soaked in water to make a refreshing drink. It is also an essential bird garden plant for attracting frugivorous birds.  For more on how to attract fruit eating birds to the garden click here.

Giant raisin (Grewia hexamita) 

The giant raisin occurs on the Natal coast it has the largest flowers of the South African Grewia family and grows to about five metres high. This shrub is one of the most attractive Grewia species because of its large bright yellow flowers, rounded bushy crown and dark glossy leaves. Like all of the Grewia species the fruits can be fermented into moonshine. Birds and butterflies are attracted to its large scented flowers. It flowers ad-hoc all year round, especially in Summer. The giant raisin grows best and is more suited to a tropical environment with good rainfall like Natal. It is not easy to predict germination of seeds for this particular species, but once the seeds germinate, its growth is about 1 m high and produces fruits about 3 years later.

Go ahead and plant your own Grewia species.

Happy Gardening to all out readers!



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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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