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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fruitless Olive Tree Has Fruit!

Olive flowers
Q. I read a small article on line that you wrote about "Fruitless" olive trees. We just had two new 36" box "Fruitless" olive trees planted in our front yard.  We noticed about a dozen green olives growing at the top areas of the trees.
Our landscaper told us that even "Fruitless" olive trees can get "Some" olives, but not enough to be a problem or a mess.  We have not paid him yet, and we are wondering if this is possible; or do "Fruitless" olive trees always have "0" fruit?  Should we feel comfortable with what he is saying?, or will these trees eventually end up producing a large quantity of olives ?

We are currently in desperate need of someone with your knowledge.

Olive tree with small number of olive fruits set
A. Robert passed this on to me . . The term 'Fruitless' is a bit of an anomaly. . .There are a couple varieties of Olive that due to quirks in their botany do not consistently produce olives . . If the variety is either 'Swan Hill' (the most effective fruitless and pollenless variety), Majestic Beauty, or  Wilsonii then the chances of no fruit about 85% of the time is expected . . These three varieties have years of track record supporting the premise they are 'Fruitless' . . .

I can only assume a reputable landscaper and their nursery supplier would only use one of those three varieties and this first year is one of the few years out of their lives when the stars align and some fruit is formed . . I would also equate that regarding many crops the terms like 'seedless' is not absolute; in the case of citrus 'seedless' means the average number of seeds is less than 1.5/fruit . . .
Olive fruits forming from the olive flowers

If the landscaper used another variety please let us know and we will research the background of that variety 
Good luck, and let's hope this will be the one year in 8 or so that some fruits have formed . .


Terry Mikel

There is one more possibility. These olives are grafted or budded on to an olive rootstock. If the olive rootstock has taken over and "beat out" the budded fruitless type it is possible that it will be a fruitful form. There is no way to really tell unless you can see that this happened at the bottom of the tree where the grafting or budding was done. Because this happened at the nursery, the landscape company would know nothing about that. And the nursery which was growing the tree, since its labor is generally unskilled, would not have known it either. If you see an ever increasing amount of olives coming from the tree in the future you might elect to have it replaced to remove future problems....or.... learn how to brine olives or make oil!


  1. My "fruitless" olive tree, which was planted about six years ago, grew strong and fast for these past years. It also always put out a few inconsequential olives each year. However, this year some of the branches are dying and recently it put out alot of dark colored full sized olives. What's happening to my tree? By the way, I'm in Tucson, AZ. Thanks.

    1. You may have a couple of things going on. To have "fruitless olive" produce fruit is not that uncommon. Sometimes tags get mixed up at the nursery and sometimes, due to pruning, the to top of the plant is removed by accident leaving the rootstock which is a "normal" olive. Try reading two of my posts on my blog.

  2. I live in Hawaii, think I might have a fruitless olive tree. I suppose there isn't anything I can to do to get it to fruit?

    1. I have a family farm in the Philippines and we are always trying to grow plants that are not supposed to grow in the tropics. You are thinking that the tree will need to go through a cold winter to trigger the flowering. This may or may not be true. Often times you can substitute a period of drought for a period of cold when triggering plants from cold climates to flower. Many tropical plants use wet and dry cycles to trigger flowering. This may be enough to get it to bloom for you. Try it and let us know.