Tree of the week: Olea europaea subsp africana – Wild olive – Olienhout

The wild olive is a neat well shaped evergreen tree with glossy green foliage and a spreading crown. Although this tree is slow growing, it can reach a mature height of 8 to 9m. This tree is common in almost every region of South Africa and is normally found growing on rocky hillsides, on stream banks and in woodlands. It is widespread in Africa, Mascarene Islands, Arabia, India to China.

This tree’s bark is brown or charcoal in colour with a rough texture when mature. The white /green flowers produced by the wild olive tree in summer attract bees and butterflies. After flowering, fleshy purple berries are produced.

Olea africana is an excellent bird and insect tree favoured by wildlife. Older specimens of this tree develop a very wide crown, this makes this tree suitable for large gardens. It can be planted as a formal or informal hedge. The root system of O.africana is sometimes aggressive hence this tree needs to be planted at a distance of about 4metres from a building and a pool. When this tree grows along rivers, it is useful in stabilizing the soil. The Wild olive is very hardy and can withstand drought and frost conditions.  It is an ideal tree for screening purposes and can be utilised as a fodder tree on game farms and lodges.

Botanical Pronunciation: Oh-lee-a yoo-ROH-pay-a af-ri-KHAN-uh