Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe, the Olive tree is one of the most widely valued trees around the world for its fruit, oil and landscape uses. These qualities have been long recognized throughout the Inland Empire and many mature trees can be seen in local landscapes that provide sculptural character and garden interest. It is a distinctive evergreen tree with an upright branching habit, 25-35 ft. tall, spreading 20-30 ft. wide; old trees often have stout trunks. Pale green foliage is a distinctive characteristic. Creamy-yellow flowers occur in mid spring and many trees produce heavy crops of green olive-type fruit that mature to black by fall.
The Olive is well adapted to many soil types, including calcareous, as well as sun, heat and summer drought. They tolerate heavy pruning to manage size and are sometimes clipped into formal and large scale topiary shapes.
Olives pose several challenges when planted in ornamental landscapes. Pollen from flowers is highly allergenic to many people, and large quantities of fruit ripen and fall each year and can stain pavement. As a result of these concerns, several low-flowering and non-fruiting cultivars are now available from nurseries including: O. e. ‘Majestic Beauty’ has thin pale green leaves with a light and airy canopy on a standard size tree. A few tiny fruit develop on this cultivar. O. e. ‘Swan Hill’ is one of the most popular non-fruiting cultivar that produces less than 1% of the average pollen of fruiting varieties. O. e. ‘Wilsonii’ (O. e. ‘Fruitless) grows to standard sizes with narrow pale green leaves and an open foliage habit; it rarely produces mature fruit. A dwarf cultivar, O. e. ‘Little Ollie’ is a non-fruiting hybrid with a dense foliage habit that grows 6-8 ft. tall and as wide. The Little Ollie dwarf olive is described here.