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Publication #ENH261

Bucida buceras: Black Olive1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2


Though commonly called `black olive tree', this native of the upper Florida Keys (some consider it native, others do not) is not the edible olive we know and love, but does produce a small, black seed-capsule. Black olive is a 40 to 50-foot-tall evergreen tree with a smooth trunk holding up strong, wind-resistant branches, forming a pyramidal shape when young but developing a very dense, full, oval to rounded crown with age. Sometimes the top of the crown will flatten with age, and the tree grows horizontally. The lush, dark bluish-green, leathery leaves are two to four inches long and clustered at branch tips, sometimes mixed with the 0.5 to 1.5-inch-long spines found along the branches.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Bucida buceras: Black Olive.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Bucida buceras
Pronunciation: bew-SYE-duh bew-SER-azz
Common name(s): Black olive, oxhorn bucida
Family: Combretaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)
Figure 2. 


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
Origin: not native to North America
Invasive potential: According to the IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas (IFAS Invasive Plant Working Group 2008), Bucida buceras should be treated with caution in the south zone in Florida, may be recommended but managed to prevent escape. It is not considered a problem species and may be recommended in the north and central zone in Florida (counties listed by zone at:
Uses: hedge; reclamation; street without sidewalk; shade; specimen; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median; indoors
Availability: not native to North America


Height: 40 to 50 feet
Spread: 35 to 50 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: oval, round
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: fast
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: obovate, oblanceolate
Leaf venation: brachidodrome, pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 


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Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: black
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; no thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: gray
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade
Soil tolerances: sand; loam; clay; acidic; alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high


Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The inconspicuous, small, greenish-yellow flowers are produced in 4-inch-long spikes during spring and summer and eventually form the black fruits which, unfortunately, exude a staining tannic acid material which could damage patios, sidewalks, or vehicles parked below. Besides this one drawback, black olive is beautifully suited as a street, shade, or specimen tree for frost-free areas, but is probably overplanted. There are many native trees which could be used in its place, including satin leaf, gumbo-limbo and others.

Black olive grows slowly and should be planted in full sun or partial shade on well-drained, moist soils. Plants may be slightly damaged at 32°F, but are killed at 25°F. Trees may show chlorosis on high pH soils.

Propagation is by seeds (with difficulty) or layering.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern but occasionally bothered by sooty mold and bark borer. Eryphide mites cause galls but no control is needed.

Literature Cited

Fox, A.M., D.R. Gordon, J.A. Dusky, L. Tyson, and R.K. Stocker. 2008. IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas: Status Assessment. Cited from the Internet (November 16, 2012),



This document is ENH261, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised February 2013. Reviewed June 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; and Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.