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Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Olea Africana – Wild Olive

My Wild Olive (Olienhout in Afrikaans), planted in 2006 in my pond area, has suprised me with the most gorgeous little "olives" this year. The branches were so heavy that they looked like they were going to buckle under the weight of all the fruit! For weeks on end, this side of the garden was alive with the chatter and whistle of all the birds that flocked here to enjoy this bounty.

I also had a go at the fruit, why not? What's good enough for the birds, is good enough for me, right? It was mostly quite sweet with a slight acidic (sour) flavour and a tiny pip inside. I wonder how many new little Olive trees will be growing everywhere from the birds dispersing the seeds?

Sprays of tiny, lightly scented white to greenish flowers (October to February) are followed (March to July) by small, spherical, thinly fleshy fruits (either sweet or sour) which ripen purple-black.

This berry fruit is a favorite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged and Pied Starlings, Rameron, African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bulbul. Leaves are browsed by game and stock. This tree is an asset on farms and game farms, especially in very dry areas because it is extremely hardy and is an excellent fodder tree.

Olive leaf and olive leaf extracts (OLE), have anti-aging, immunostimulator, and antibiotic properties. A tea can be made from the leaves and I'm still scouring the internet to see if I can find a recipe. 

 Planted in 2006 at my pond, my Wild Olive has grown to about 4m tall and 4m wide.

I also have one planted about the same time in my bathroom court-yard garden and it's a favourite with all the birds, entertaining me early-mornings with their antics as I sit in the bath. this one, however, has never fruited yet.
This tree is found in a variety of habitats, mostly on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range from the rocky areas exposed to all the weather elements, in the kloofs, right down to the river bank areas of the Magalies River but is widespread in Africa.

The Latin name for olive is olea; europaea = from Europe, and africana = from Africa. There are four species of Olea in South Africa. Olea europaea subsp. africana is a neatly shaped evergreen tree with a dense spreading crown (9 x 12m) of glossy grey-green to dark-green foliage. Leaves are grey-green to dark-green above and greyish below. The rough, grey bark sometimes peels off in strips. 

Propagate it from seed or from hardwood cuttings. Sow fresh seed in river sand. Treat cuttings with a rooting hormone. The slow-growing frost, drought and wind-resistant wild olive makes a good shade or screen plant in the home garden.


- Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than the roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help the roots establish.

- Square holes are better than round ones as the roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)

- As it has an aggressive root system don’t plant near your house, a pool or other buildings.

- Although this step is not essential, it will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that the plant will be exactly the same height in the ground as it was at the nursery.

- If it is am planted too deep, the stem may rot; too shallow and the roots above ground will die.

- Before planting, remove from the plastic bag! lol!

- Put the tree in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around. The roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that it is not loose in the ground.

- Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil so that it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.

- Water and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch.


- After planting, it is important to water at least once a week.

- It is better to give one good watering once a week rather than a little bit every day.

- Monitor to see if your tree looks thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.

- Once planted, you can apply a general fertilizer around the base. (Culterra 5:1:5 is a good option).

- As your tree grows, it will require staking and pruning. Stake it against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking the strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.

Relax and watch your beautiful Olive grow approximately 800mm each year!

 ི♥ྀ *˚*¨*•.¸¸♥¸¸.•*¨*• ི♥ྀ •*
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