Olea europaea subsp. africana, commonly the African olive, wild olive and in Afrikaans olienhout (olive wood), is a small to medium-sized tree reaching 3 m to 10 m (SA Tree List No. 617).
The flowers of the wild olive are small and white with a cream or greenish tint; similar to those of their close relative, the real olive tree. Flowers arrive in axillary sprays during spring and summer and are sweetly scented.
The fruit is not as impressive as the olive, but edible although bitter or astringent. The fruits are spherical and variously coloured from green to black as seen in this picture taken in Jonkershoek near Stellenbosch during July.
The species distribution is widespread throughout South Africa where it is found in all nine provinces, also widespread in southern Africa and through tropical Africa as far as Ethiopia.
The habitat is diverse across the wide expanse where these trees grow, including river banks, mountain slopes and kloofs, thickets and bushveld, open woodland and on termite mounds. The species is not considered to be threatened in its habitat early in the twenty first century.
Birds and monkeys do most of the eating of these fruits. The leaves have been used to brew a tea substitute (Schmidt, et al, 2002; Coates Palgrave, 2002; http://redlist.sanbi.org).