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Publication #ENH340

Cordia boissieri: Wild Olive1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

Wild olive is a native North American evergreen tree which reaches 20-feet in height with a 10- to 15-foot spread. This small tree is very rarely found and is even reportedly close to extinction. The silvery green leaves have a velvety texture and the showy, white flowers appear year-round, if enough rainfall or irrigation is available. Otherwise, the 3-inch-wide, trumpet-shaped, white blossoms with yellow throats will appear from late spring to early summer. The olive-like, white fruits that are produced have a sweet flesh relished by birds and other wildlife and, although edible to man, should not be eaten in quantities.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Cordia boissieri: wild olive


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Cordia boissieri
Pronunciation: KOR-dee-uh boy-see-AIR-ee
Common name(s): Wild olive, anacahuita
Family: Boraginaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 9A through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: sidewalk cutout (tree pit); parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; container or planter; trained as a standard; specimen; highway median
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 15 to 20 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: broadleaf evergreen, evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green, silver
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: very showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: purple
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

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

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

This is a versatile plant adapted for use as a specimen tree or as an accent in a shrub border. Showy, year-round flowers make it suitable for placing in a lawn area as a free-standing specimen. It can be planted in an above-ground container and kept looking nice for a number of years when it is carefully maintained.

Wild olive should be grown in full sun or partial shade on well-drained soils and is highly drought-tolerant. Although hardy to about 20°F, wild olive will lose its leaves in a severe frost. This is the cold-hardy relative of Cordia sebestena that is very sensitive to the cold.

Propagation is by seeds and air-layering.

Pests

No pests are of major concern.

Diseases

No diseases are of major concern.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH340, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed May 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; 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.