Chionanthus ramiflorus

northern native olive


Chionanthus ramiflorus

Roxb. 1820

pronounced: kye-oh-NAN-thuss ram-ee-FLOR-uss

(Oleaceae — the olive family)

synonym — Linociera ramiflora

(Roxb.) Wall. 1831

pronounced: ly-noh-see-AIR-uh ram-ee-FLOR-uh

common names: northern native olive, native olive

native 4Chionanthus is derived from the Greek χιονεος (chioneos), snow-white, and ανθος (anthos), a flower; ramiflorus is from the Latin ramus, a branch, twig, and flos, a flower.

The genus consists of trees or shrubs, usually evergreen. There are about 80 species, found in tropical and subtropical Africa, America, Asia and Australia. Chionanthus ramiflorus is a shrub or a tree growing from 3 – 25 m in height, found in south-east Asia (as far north as Taiwan), Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The branches are circular in cross-section, usually flattened. The petioles are 2 – 5 cm long, and glabrous. The leaf blades are elliptic, oblong-elliptic or ovate-elliptic, rarely lanceolate, 8 – 20 or more cm long by 4 – 7 or more cm wide, leathery, glabrous, densely dotted with raised pimples, especially abaxially; the base is tapering and the apex acuminate, acute or obtuse. There are 7 – 10 veins on each side of the midrib, slightly raised or obscure.

The flowers are in panicles that are axillary or rarely terminal, loose, 2.5 – 12 or more cm. The pedicels are 1 – 6 mm, the calyces about 1 mm, glabrous or covered with fine down; the lobes ovate, about 0.5 mm, acute or obtuse. The corollas are white or yellow, 2.5 to 5.5 mm, their lobes oblong, rounded, slightly united at base. In other words, the individual flowers are tiny!

The fruit is a drupe, blue-black when ripe, with a powdery surface, ovoid-ellipsoid or ellipsoid, 1.5 – 3 cm by 0.5 – 2 cm, looking, as the common name suggests, very much like olives.

These plants are usually found in woods, thickets, slopes and ravines in altitudes from sea level to 2000 m.

A small amount of usable timber can be obtained from the tree. It is used for light construction purposes, and for internal flooring (Nepal). The wood is also suitable for firewood and charcoal-making.

The fruits of this native olive are an important food source for the Torres Strait Pigeon, among other birds. In parts of Brisbane, it is becoming an invasive weed. This is especially noticeable in the Sherwood Arboretum, where it was planted and thrived, producing great quantities of fruit. The seeds have been spread by birds, and the plant threatens to spread widely.
The Sherwood Arboretum, situated some 9 km south-west of the Brisbane CBD in the 33 acre Sherwood Forest Park, began in 1924 with a planting of an avenue of 72 Queensland Kauri trees. It now features about 1000 trees, representing some 300 native species. The Brisbane River runs alongside the park, which has a large children’s playground and undercover barbeque facilities, and is very popular with both locals and visitors.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2009-2012
Page last updated 6th November 2018