*Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata

Family Oleaceae

African Olive

Much branched shrub to small tree up to 15 m high. Long lived up to 100 years.

Flowers: White – cream, November - December. Reported to be primarily wind pollinated.

Fruit: Fleshy black fruit 15 – 25 mm long covering hard woody seed coat.

Seed: Usually single seeded. Fruit eaten and seed dispersed by birds, Pied Currawongs Strepera graculina, Silver eyes Zosterops lateralis (16 seeds voided at one time), Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis, Olive backed oriole Oriolus sagittatus (voided 30 seeds at one time), Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike Coracina novaehollandiae, Lewins Honeyeater Meliphaga lewinii, Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonoyus jocosus, Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris, Common Blackbird Turdus merula. Fruit also eaten and dispersed by foxes Vulpes vulpes. Seeds dormant but apparently not long lived in soil seedbank.

Gallery images: seed, seedling, rootstock, resprout


  • Major woody weed in woodland remnants, often on well-drained hillsides at the Australian Botanic Garden. Increased abundance in absence of stock grazing.
  • Seedlings recruit under canopy eucalypts, dead trees, power lines resulting from bird dispersal.
  • Dense stands shade out and out-compete native species for moisture.
  • Major seedling recruitment during wet periods.
  • Large plants (> 20 mm basal stem diameter) resprout after fire.
  • Small seedlings (< 5 mm basal stem diameter) are killed by fire, but periodic fire may keep sites relatively olive free.
  • Major infestations in woodland at the Australian Botanic Garden, successfully eradicated by cutting and poisoning.

Recent observations

  • Significant seedling recruitment observed autumn (April - May) 2007 at the Australian Botanic Garden.

Useful references

von Richter, L., Little, D. and Benson, D. (2005) Effects of low intensity fire on the resprouting of the weed African Olive (Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata) in Cumberland Plain Woodland Western Sydney. Ecological Management and Restoration 6(3): 230-232.

Cuneo, P. and Leishman, M. (2006) African Olive (Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata) as an environmental weed in Eastern Australia: A review. Cunninghamia 9(4): 545 - 577.  View pdf file.

Asterisk * indicates exotic species naturalised at the Australian Botanic Garden.

Ecology of Cumberland Plain Woodland

Olea europea subsp cuspidata plant

Olea europea subsp cuspidata flower

Olea europea subsp cuspidata fruit