Plant ID: African Wild Olive (Olea europaea subsp. africana)

Genus: Olea
Species: europaea
Subspecies: africana
Common name: African Wild Olive, African Olive
Plant type: Evergreen
Origin: Africa


It’s difficult to ignore the spirit of this tree. The African Olive tree does a wonderful job of expressing the African spirit, the nature of the continent and its people. When you look upon this tree you see a fiery celebration extending all around, and you also see a very rugged tree, stubborn and steadfast even in bad conditions and disturbed sites.

An evergreen tree or shrub that can reach considerable width and branch extension, with a dense amount of branches and twiggy growth, twisting and gnarling about itself, reaching heights generally of 10m-15m and width of 12m. With maturity there is a good balance of visible trunk and primary branches mixed with areas of full of foliage, also gnarly.

The bark is flaky-like dislodging or lifting plates that can still be quite secured to the trunk, creates a furrowed appearance but also almost shaggy looking in some areas although quite hard when you touch it, medium grey, smoky grey, grey-brown colour. The bark/plate pieces are rough and textured and also have some grainy smooth areas as well. Other areas of the trunk are of less lifted plates or separating pieces. The trunk/wood is extremely hard and has very distinctive morphing or cavernous bludging and sinking from fusing stems and tension and compression wood. Can have extreme twisting and gnarl to the trunk.

This tree can be classified as a weed in some areas, especially clay soils. Its massive amounts of seeds are spread by birds and it can quickly scramble through an area. You’ll also find some specimens listed as heritage trees. It was introduced into Australia as an ornamental tree for hedges. You’ll find the African specimens classified as a subspecies or variety of the O. europaea.

Olive trees tend to be quite hardy, adaptive and enduring, capable of reaching hundreds or thousands of years in age, drought resistant, dry soils, mild frost, full sun or part shade, vigorous root system, can produce suckers from the root system.


Opposite, lanceolate, generally 100mm long and up to 30mm wide, darkish green, khaki in the green, greyish in the green colour, can be shiny, can be strong coated-like, sometimes described as a silvery-green. Pale colour underneath, green or yellowish-brown. Recurved margins, can be wavy, almost appears to have a border for margins. Can have distinct hook as both sides of the leaf meet at the apex, can also have a pointy apex. Noticeable midrib, cream-yellow, prominent on the underside. Notable petiole with normal join to the stem/branch.


Insignificant, small feathery-like, in axillary panicles low in the branches and on pervious year’s growth, green-cream colour.


Small drupe 15-25mm olive, round with small point at the end, green aging to black. Tree can produce up to 25,000 fruits in one season, making the seeds easy to spread and is mainly why it gets classified as a weed in some areas.

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4 thoughts on “Plant ID: African Wild Olive (Olea europaea subsp. africana)

  1. Darla Lama says:

    What a beautiful tree and great pic angles. This is huge, and the trunk is very interesting. Never seen such an interesting tree before. thank you for sharing. Shape of leaves are surprising with this tree. Beautiful majestic.

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