The Lavender Star Flower, which is native to Australia and Africa, is a hardy plant that survives in all kinds of habitats including dry desert, coastal dunes, mountain forests, wooded grasslands or rocky terrain.
This multi-stemmed tree, which is now found world-wide, grows up to a height of 3 meters. Though deciduous, it can remain evergreen under favorable conditions. The leaves are slightly tapering, dark green, and shiny but hairy. They have irregularly toothed margins that give them a decorative look.
The tree remains in bloom round the year. However, between October and January and in spring it is covered by a profusion of mauve or purple colored flowers. The fruits, which are berry-like, dark brown and four-lobed, give the tree the name of cross berry. When ripe they turn reddish brown.
Cattle and animals such as black rhino, giraffe and others, and the larvae of some species of butterfly, feed on its leaves while birds like bulbuls and barbets feast on its fruits. The fruits have high sugar content and are used for making milkshakes and brewing beer. The tree has several medicinal qualities. Shampoo made from its bark is used to prevent the graying of hair; bark soaked in hot water is used to treat wounds; while the root extracts are effective in childbirth.
The tree can be propagated from seeds, particularly seeds from the excreta of monkeys and baboons. Nevertheless, being hardy the tree can germinate even without this process. It can also withstand frost and drought and can be grown both in full sun and in shade. It grows in a healthy manner when planted in compost soil and watered regularly.
It makes a prized garden plant with its slender branches hanging down in curving arches. Since it also attracts birds and butterflies it is a preferred tree for pollination.