Olea africana

  • African Olive
  • Wild Olive
  • Indian Olive
  • Olienhout (A)
  • Swartolienhout (A)
  • Olyfboom (A)
  • mohlware (S)
  • umNqumo (Z)
  • umNquma (X)


  • One of the world’s oldest cultivated plants, Olea Africana is classed as a subspecies of the commercial olive, Olea Europea. It is a protected species in three provinces; Northern Cape, Free state and North West. With glossy, silver to almost golden foliage and splendid, eye-catching, dark-purple fruit, and bunches of pure white, dainty flowers, it will add life and beauty to any indigenous garden. Very versatile and adaptable. A neat, decorative, hardy tree and an asset in any wildlife garden.


SA Tree

  • 617


  • Oleaceae (Olive family)
  • Belonging to the order Lamiales, with somewhat 24 genera and 615 species.
  • These plants are native to temperate, forested regions, favouring in particular tropical Asia, but can be found worldwide, except for the Arctic, and can be trees, shrubs or woody climbers.
  • Members of this family are prized for either their economical or aesthetic importance.
  • The most eminent member of this family, and the namesake, is undoubtedly the Olive tree (Olea europaea), valued for its fruit and oil since ancient times.
  • Other members include the Ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior), and the Jasmines (Jasminum).


  • Occurs in most parts of South-Africa, extending northwards towards Ethiopia.
  • Most often encountered along water courses, on forest edges, in bushveld and even on rocky hillsides.


  • Rough, grey to dark-grey, often covered in numerous white spots (lenticels).
  • The bark occasionally peels off in long strips and the main stem will often have a gnarled, twisted appearance.
  • Older branches are sometimes smooth textured.


  • Evergreen

  • Dark -green, glossy above, with silvery to yellowish-green undersides and leathery texture, often covered in minute white scales.
  • Leaves opposite, elliptic to oblong with a drooping habit, 7-17mm wide with sharply pointed tip and smooth margins.
  • Each leaf grows for a period of about two years before being shed.
  • They have fibrous edges when torn.


  • Small, sweetly-scented white flowers often occurring in terminal or loose clusters during spring – summer
  • (Oct – Feb).


  • A fleshy drupe, (10 x 8mm) ovoid, ripening to purple-black.

  • Usually bitter-tasting.

  • (Mar- Aug)


  • Usually a medium-sized tree, 3-14m, occasionally reaching 18m.


  • Rounded, or dome shaped, dense spread. (5-10 m)


  • A tea is made from the dried leaves, which is said to help improve kidney function and alleviate urinary tract problems.
  • Leaf extracts are used to treat eye infections, colic, sore throats and diarrhoea and fever, and have reputedly been used to treat malaria by indigenous peoples.
  • Commonly used to lower blood pressure as it increases coronary flow.


  • Juice from the ripe fruit has been used as an ink.
  • The wood is strong, durable and very hard.
  • Sapwood is usually pale yellow-brown, while the heartwood is beautifully reddish or golden brown with dark figuring and makes good quality furniture.
  • Suitable for fence posts, (termite and borer resistant) ornaments, carving and popular in turnery.
  • When burned, the wood is slightly sweet smelling and makes long-burning coals.


  • Has an aggressive root system, so plant well away from buildings, pools and walls.


  • The fruit is enjoyed by birds, (Louries, starlings, pigeons mouse birds and more) monkeys, mongoose, and humans.
  • The flowers attract bees, butterflies and insects, while the leaves make an excellent fodder for livestock.


  • An asset on game reserves and farms due to nutritious leaves and shade providing abilities.
  • Perfect for parks and large gardens.
  • Helps to control erosion and makes a good firebreak.
  • Excellent ornamental tree and wonderful as bonsai subject.


  • Resistant to drought, fire, wind and many common diseases.
  • Tolerant to frost and can withstand temperatures ranging between -5 and 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Once established, it is virtually indestructible.
  • The wood is quite rot-resistant too.

Growth Rate

  • Relatively fast growing when young (200-400mm per annum), but as it matures growth slows down.
  • Can be remarkably long lived.


  • Prefers full sun but will tolerate semi-shade.

Soil & Water

  • Prefers a well-drained soil, with a coarser texture, such as sand. They can grow in low fertility soils and have moderate water requirements.


  • Easily propagated from seed or hardwood cuttings.
  • Treat cuttings with rooting hormones.
  • Sow fresh seeds in river sand mixture and water well once a week.
  • Young trees (usually under 5 years) respond best to pruning.