Texas 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.
Scientific name: Cordia boissieri
Pronunciation: KOR-dee-uh boy-see-AIR-ee
Common name(s): Texas Olive, Wild Olive, Anacahuita
USDA hardiness zones: 9A through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: native to the southern tip of Texas and northern Mexico
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: not assessed/incomplete assessment
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
Height: 15 to 20 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: ovate
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: broadleaf evergreen, evergreen
Leaf blade length: 5 inches
Leaf color: gray green on top, silvery underneath
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: white with a yellow throat
Flower characteristics: very showy; trumpet-shaped; emerges in clusters at branch tips
Flowering: late spring to early summer
Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: ½ to 1 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy drupe
Fruit color: greenish-yellow
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Bark: gray or light brown, deeply fissured, and shredding
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
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.
Texas 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, Texas 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.
No pests are of major concern.
No diseases are of major concern.
Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.