Notelaea microcarpa

Native Olive

Family: Oleaceae

A tree to 10 metres high, sometimes multi-stemmed.

It is confined to an area of NSW, generally from the central western slopes, north through the north-western slopes and northern tablelands; slightly into the north-western plains and north coast subdivisions; but occurring as far south as Wombeyan Caves on the Central Tablelands. It a very common species on the western slopes. It extends commonly through Queensland, along the coast and as far west as Thruston National Park in the southern extremes, extending north and north-west to mostly Cairns; with some scattered records on Cape York Peninsula. It is also recorded in the Northern Territory, around Darwin and to the east and south-west.

It is generally found in dry sclerophyll woodland as a midstorey species and can be seen as an isolated small tree in paddocks and along roadsides, often on sandy and rocky substrates but also on heavier soils. It can also be found in inland dry rainforest. It can be a dominant midstorey species in some woodland habitats. 

Notelaea spp. have simple and opposite leaves (a common feature of this family). In this species, leaves are to 15 cm long and to 3 cm wide; lanceolate to narrow-elliptic and often with acuminate apices; dark to mid or even light green; generally glabrous or with sparse hairs and sometimes with velvet hairs on lower surface.

Notelaea spp. produce small flowers in axillary racemes or short clusters; each flower is bisexual and 4-merous – with 4 sepals and petals with 2 stamens and 1 carpel; generally yellow-cream in colour cream. In this species, flowers are to 3 mm long, with petals joined in 2 pairs at the base; arranged in axillary racemes, to 2 cm long, of up to 13 flowers; cream-green, cream or yellow; mainly produced from June to December. 

The fruit of Notelaea spp. is a drupe (just like in the related exotic Olive and Privet) In this species, the fruit is fleshy, dark blue to purple when ripe, to 10 mm long, containing a single ovate to pointed seed, to 8 mm long.

In the garden

Likely not a very common plant in cultivation but it has some cultivation history. It is an attractive tree in its own right. It is a common component of inland woodland communities and so would lend to landscapes in gardens in inland areas of Australia. It has a nice form and nicely paired long-narrow leaves. The flowers are inconspicuous but the fruit would attract birds such as native doves and pigeons. 

Check with native nurseries for availability. It would be hardy on a well-drained soil, in full sun to part shade. It could be pruned to produce a nice-rounded and dense shrub to small tree. Makes a decent small shade tree. 

Will tolerate frost and very hot and dry conditions. 


From cuttings as germination from fresh seed is reportedly slow.

Seed is available commercially.

Other information

Two varieties are currently recognised in NSW: 

  • var. microcarpa – known as Velvet Mock Olive; leaves are generally glabrous or with only scattered hairs on both surfaces – growing over most of the range
  • var. velutina – known as the Gorge Mock Olive; leaves are velvet-textured with hairs, especially on lower surface – generally through the northern tablelands.

This plant grows in fire-prone environments and is likely able to regenerate by seed. Reportedly, it also has a lignotuber which allows it to reshoot from the base readily.

Notelaea is a genus of plants in the olive family (hence its common name). There are about 14 species, all endemic to Australia, occurring in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. NSW currently has 9 species. 

Notelaeafrom the Greek via Latin – Notos (Νότος) – meaning “south” and –elaia (ἐλαία) – “olives” – referring to this genus as “the southern-hemisphere olive”. 

microcarpafrom Greek – mikros (μικρός) – meaning “small” and karpos (καρπός) – referring to the fruit of the species (which is comparatively much smaller compared to other species). 

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Notelaea microcarpa profile page: https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Notelaea~microcarpa

Toowoomba Plants – Notelaea microcarpa profile page: https://toowoombaplants2008.blogspot.com/2011/06/small-fruited-mock-olive.html 

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.