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Friday, June 15, 2012

Fruitless Olive Not Always Fruitless

Q. Last fall we planted an olive tree that was certified to be non-fruit blooming. Now, it is full of olives! I just want it to grow. So, should we pluck the little olives off the tree so it can put its energy into growth?
Olives forming on "fruitless" olive

A. Yes, this can happen. Fruitless varieties like Swan Hill are grafted on to an olive rootstock. The top of the tree is fruitless but the bottom of the trunk below the location of the graft is not. Sometimes in the nursery the tops of some fruitless olives die back leaving the rootstock (a fruiting olive) that grows instead.

            The dead top (fruitless) is unknowingly pruned out or removed. The rootstock grows very rapidly and replaces the dead fruitless part of the plant. This has been documented in the nurseries.

            This can result in a fruiting olive tree. Sometimes the tags get mixed up in the nursery as well and a fruiting variety is labeled a fruitless variety by accident. I would not remove the olives. It would be far to laborious and time consuming and the small benefit you would get is not worth the effort. There are some great olive recipes that you could experiment with.

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