The Wild Olive Tree, also known as the Mexican Olive Tree, White Cordia, Texas Wild Olive, or the Anacahuita, has the scientific name of Cordia boissieri. It is perhaps one of the loveliest small trees grown in Texas, especially in the Rio Grande Valley. While it has been introduced in California and Florida its native area is southern Texas and Mexico as far south as Mexico City.
C. boissieri reaches a height of 5–7 m (16–23 ft.), with a symmetrical round crown 3–5 m (9.8–16 ft.) in diameter. The ovate leaves are 9–18 cm (3.5–7.1 in.) long and 5–9 cm (2.0–3.5 in.) wide. It is evergreen but will lose leaves if it suffers frost damage. The white, funnel-shaped flowers are 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) across and are present on the tree throughout the year. The drupes are yellow-green, olive-like, and 1.2–2.4 cm (0.47–0.94 in.) in length. They are sweet but slightly toxic when fresh, causing dizziness in humans and other animals. The tree has a lifespan of 30-50 years.
C. boissieri is very drought tolerant and makes a great ornamental tree for areas that get very little water. While considered a slow growing tree I have found that with enough water and proper fertilization the Wild olive will reach a height of 10 feet within 5 years. The bark of the Wild Olive has a rough texture which gives it a distinctive look. The leaves has a very rough scratchy texture on the underside and is considered evergreen as mentioned above but will be lost if a frost occurs. The leaves will come back quickly once warmer weather resumes.
The Wild Olive makes a wonderful display tree in small yards mainly because of the year round blooming of it flowers and that fact that its branches often turn at right angles making the tree look like a giant bonsai in your yard. The Wild Olive, except for the dropping of its drupes, is considered a clean tree, is attacked by few pests, and doesn’t have a bad root system.
If the Wild Olive Tree is in a location with a fairly high humidity, such as near the coast, it can get a brown powdery fungus growing on its leaves. This can be easily be taken care of with any anti-fungal spray found in local nurseries (example: capstan or neem oil for those wishing to go organic). I have found that if this fungus does occur usually one application takes care of the problem if caught early enough.
Pruning a Wild Olive Tree.
- Check the branches of your wild olive tree for signs of decay, disease or dead branches. Dead branches will feel hollow to the touch, while diseased branches typically show rings, blotches or fungus. Dead and diseased branches need to be removed for the health of the tree.
- Cut away damaged or dead branches at their intersection with the trunk. Take care not to cut into the trunk. Carry all clippings to a garbage can. Disinfect and dry the pruning tools thoroughly before continuing.
- Remove suckers and water sprouts. Also cut back any low growing branches that impede movement underneath the tree's canopy.
- Cut away branches growing vertically. Remove any branches that rub up against other branches, since this friction can cause damage when pressure causes one of the limbs to break.
- Snip off the tips of new growth to encourage a bushy, vigorous tree. This will help your wild olive tree produce more blossoms, since they flower on new growth.
- Cut away some of the growth in the tree's canopy to allow greater air circulation in the tree's canopy. This reduces the risk of disease.
Propagation of Wild Olive Tree.
The Wild Olive Tree can be grown from seed, softwood cuttings and even semi-hard wood cuttings. Perhaps the easiest way to propagate the Wild Olive is by seed. Collect the seed when it becomes a muted yellow-white or pale brown with the interior seed plump and hard. Clean and air dry the drupe before storage in a cool dry place.
Once you have the seed place it in a one gallon container approximately one inch deep in a good starting mix potting soil. It will take approximately two to three weeks for the seed to germinate. The seed will require much water to get it established. Do not fertilize during the germination period or the first three to four weeks after the young tree sprouts above the surface of the soil. Once the young tree is one to one and a half feet tall in the pot it is ready for transplant.