Notelaea ovata

Native Olive, Forest Olive

Family: Oleaceae

It is a shrub to 1.5 metres tall, which can form wide multi-stemmed patches or colonies in some habitats; otherwise with a spread up to 1 metre. 

In NSW, it is found mostly along the coast, north from My Imlay (south-west of Eden) with patchy occurrences northwards, common in the Sydney basin, and patchy along the coast to about Lismore. It extends into the tablelands around Tenterfield and Guyra and on the western slopes near Sandy Hollow as well as the Megalong Valley. 

It is found in dry sclerophyll woodland and forest, as well as shrubland and heathland, usually on sandy and sandstone-based soils. It can be found growing on sandstone outcrops in spreading-suckering colonies. 

Notelaea spp. have simple and opposite leaves (a common feature of this family). In this species, leaves are variable in size and shape, to 14 cm long and to 6 cm wide; narrow-ovate to broad-ovate to broad-elliptic, often with acuminate apices; dark to mid or even light green; glabrous or with tiny hairs; as well as a very leathery texture in most cases (Note: this is a throw-back but they have a similar feel to the old “paper money” of Australia which was replaced in the 1980/1990s) – this is a good identification feature along with a group of up to 4 pointed axillary buds in the leaf axils.

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 racemes in leaf axils, to 4 cm long, consisting of up to 9 flowers; pale yellow in colour; mainly produced from April to October. 

The fruit of Notelaea spp. is a drupe (just like in the related exotic Olive and Privet) In this species, the fruit is fleshy, purple-black when ripe, to 12 mm long by 10 mm wide, containing a single ovate to pointed seed, to 10 mm long.

In the garden

Not a lot of information is available regarding the cultivation of this species. It is likely easy to grow and very hardy. However, it may be overlooked for more attractive plants in the garden. It would certainly be useful for covering an exposed rocky area or as a general gap filler. Fruits attract birds such as native doves and pigeons. 

Best planted on a well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Check with native nurseries for availability. 

It would need little maintenance once established. 


From cuttings as germination from fresh seed can be slow

Other information

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. 

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”. 

longifolia From Latin – longus (long) and – folia (leaves) – referring to this species having comparatively longer leaves. 

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

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

iNaturalist Australia – Photos of Notelaea ovata                      https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/538052-Notelaea-ovata/browse_photos 

By Dan Clarke and Jeff Howes.