Planting and caring for your Wild Olive

Planting and caring for trees

Thank you for taking me into your care! You can find me 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.

I grow as a single stemmed tree branching out quite low down on the trunk with my branches “fanning” out from the lower part my trunk. I have a dense and round-shaped canopy. I may look a little weather-worn and less dense if I grow in a very windy area and I would be smaller all round if I grow in a more exposed area like an open rocky ridge.  Being drought and wind resistant, frost tolerant and requiring little in the way of water, I can grow in full sun and am hardy enough to do really well in a variety of habitats.

One of the things people and animals love about me is that I am evergreen! From October through to February I have sweetly scented creamy-white flowers which then become a berry shaped fruit and that turns purple-black when ripe usually during my fruit period which is from March to July.

Because I am so special I am considered a protected tree in the North West Province, the Northern Cape and Free State.

Fortunately for you, my wood is hard, dense and borer and termite resistant which means that you can use me for making furniture, carvings, kitchen utensils and fence posts on farms.

Some people when they are ill will use my leaves to make an eye lotion for themselves as well as their cattle or gargle with liquid out of an infusion made with my leaves if they have a sore throat.  My water-soaked leaves can even be used as a substitute for tea!

My berry fruit is a favourite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled & Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged & Pied Starlings, Rameron, African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bulbul that visit me.


I’m a Olea Africana – Wild Olive

Botanical Name: Olea Africana
Common Name: Wild Olive, Olienhout
Plant Shape: Dense rounded crown
Indigenous/ Exotic: Indigenous
Evergreen/ Deciduous: Evergreen
Dimensions: 6-18m
Frost Tolerance: Frost hardy
Drought Resistance: Drought hardy
Growth Rate: Slow

  • Flowers – creamy-white(Late Spring-Summer), scented
  • Fruit – purple-black (Autumn)
  • Foliage – grey-green to dark-green

Wildlife attraction: Birds, animals and insects. The fruits are popular with people, monkeys, baboons, mongooses, bushpigs, warthogs and birds (e.g. redwinged and pied starlings, Rameron pigeons, African green pigeons, Cape parrots and louries. The fruit has an either sweet or sour taste. Browsed by game and stock.
Use in the garden: Used as a windbreak and sometimes as a clipped hedge, it is a good tree for containers, courtyards, as a shade tree, street tree and screening. It is also used for bonsai. It is also an excellent fodder tree for farmers.
Root system: Can sometimes be aggressive
Soil type: Not restricted

How to plant me

  1. Dig a hole slightly wider and deeper than my roots. (The bigger the better). The extra space below and at the sides will be in-filled; but, having been loosened, will help my roots establish.
  2. Square holes are better than round ones as my roots can go round in circles if unable to break out of a round hole (yes, seriously!)
  3. As I have an aggressive root system don’t plant me near your house, a pool or other buildings.
  4. Although this step is not essential, I will grow better if you mix some compost and bone meal (available at Willow Feather Farm) with the soil taken out of the hole. Also it would be a good idea to fill the hole a little so that I will be exactly the same height in the ground as I was at the nursery.
  5. If I am planted too deep my stem may rot; too shallow and my roots above ground will die.
  6. Before planting remove me from the plastic bag!
  7. Put me in the hole and replace the soil, compost and bone meal mixture, firming it down all around me. My roots must be immobilized, so it’s essential that I am not loose in the ground.
  8. Use the heel of your boot to firm the soil as you back-fill, but do not compact the soil until it is like concrete, as this prevents water and air circulation, causing roots to die.
  9. Water me and cover the soil with a good heap of mulch (e.g. 6-month-old wood-chip).

How to care for me

  • After planting me it is important to water me at least once a week.
  • It is better to give me one good watering once a week than a little bit every day.
  • Monitor me to see if I look thirsty (sagging limp leaves) and water if needed.
  • Once planted you can apply a general fertilizer around my base.  (Culterra 5:1:5  is a good option)
  • As I grow I will require staking and pruning. Stake me against a straight wooden stick or pole, taking my strongest shoot up and pruning the bottom branches off.
  • Relax and watch me grow approximately 800mm each year.

Featured image by: alexindigo


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