🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sacred Earth Plant - Wild Olive

Olea Europaea subsp. africana

Wild Olive / Olienhout, Swartolienhout, Olyfboom  
Tswana: Motlhware 

(SA National Tree number 617) 

My Wild Olive in April 2012

This small, graceful, evergreen tree, stretching its branches to the heavens as it flickers its silvery-gray leaves in the light sunny breeze is a perfect specimen for any garden. Olive trees have a timeless feel to them - young trees can look old, while old trees still express an ageless, graceful beauty. They are among the more long-lived species of trees and can reach a ripe old age of over 500 years. No wonder the ancients regarded the Olive tree as a manifestation of the ever-present life-force: evergreen and long-lived, with a tenacious will to survive against the odds in dry and inhospitable places.


I planted mine at the beginning of 2006 and since then it has just gone from strength to strength. There was one year where I had trouble with a white, woolley infestation on the leaves – presumably Mealy bugs (or woolly aphid), which are certainly the worst and more common insect attack on plants. They can live on the plant or on the roots in the soil and are capable of very rapidly killing large specimens.

Mealy bugs belongs - like other scale insect - to the Coccoidea superfamily and reproduce very rapidly laying their eggs underneath a cotton-like elliptical covering so they can consequently attain large numbers and also quickly acquire resistance to pesticides. They are small (about 1-3mm) and have a characteristic loose, hairy and waxy cover used to build their nests (depending on the species) and retain well-developed legs and thus remain mobile, even as adults, unlike most other scale insects. This means that they can easily spread and infect neighbour plants.


The Wild Olive berry fruit is a favourite for fruit-eating birds, so look out for the Grey Lourie, Speckled and Red-faced Mousebirds, Redwinged and Pied Starlings, rameron and African Green Pigeon and the Blackeyed Bullbul. You may also see Vervet monkeys, Chacma baboon, mongoose and even Warthog and bushpig feeding on the fruit in the tree or on the ground.


The botanical name indicates that this tree is an African variety similar to the one found in Europe. This tree also has some medicinal value. The leaves may be used as a substitute for tea. An infusion made from the bark relieves colic while an infusion of the leaves is used as an eye-lotion for humans and cattle. A concoction of the leaves can be used as a gargle for a sore throat and diphtheria. Powdered dry leaves can be used as a snuff to stop nosebleeds or to stop other kinds of bleeding. A concoction of the roots taken mornings and evenings alleviates kidney and bladder problems.

The hard, heavy and beautiful golden-brown wood is used for furniture, ornaments, spoons and durable fence posts. An ink is made from the juice of the fruit. The early Cape settlers used the fruits to treat diarrhoea.


It is easily propagated from seed or from hardwood cuttings although I bought mine as a sapling. Sow fresh seed in river sand and 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, on golf courses and elsewhere. It is popular for bonsai, street planting, and for use at schools, office complexes, and in parks. It is perfect for dry areas where it is an excellent fodder plant for stock and game and it has also been used to stabilize erosion dongas/ditches.


Here in Gauteng the Wild Olive is found on the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range – from the rocky areas exposed to all the weather elements, in the kloofs, woodland and down to the river bank areas of the Magalies River. If you should be travelling in China, India, Arabia or on the Mascarene Islands, don’t be surprised to see the Wild Olive there too!

Sources of information :

Olea europaea 

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