Black Olive – Bucida Molinetti Though commonly called ‘black olive tree’, this native of the upper Florida Keys (some consider it native, others do not) is not the edible olive we know and love, but does produce a small, black seed-capsule. Black olive is a 40 to 50-foot-tall evergreen tree with a smooth trunk holding up strong, wind-resistant branches, forming a pyramidal shape when young but developing a very dense, full, oval to rounded crown with age. Sometimes the top of the crown will flatten with age, and the tree grows horizontally. The lush, dark bluish-green, leathery leaves are two to four inches long and clustered at branch tips, sometimes mixed with the 0.5 to 1.5-inch-long spines found along the branches. Bucida comes highly recommended by Lesniewicz, who says, “This delicate tree from Florida and the Caribbean grows into a bonsai almost by itself.” An unusual bonsai subject which may increase in popularity as an indoor tree. It is very salt tolerant, making it a good choice for bonsai lovers by the sea.
Lighting: Full sun – its natural environment is the hottest parts of Florida and the Caribbean.
Temperature: Grows well in zones 10B through 11. Do not expose to freezing weather or better yet, temperatures below 40 degrees. A tender plant which has been grown successfully as an indoor bonsai.
Watering: Likes to be well-watered and should not be permitted to stay dry.
Feeding: Likes frequent fertilization which promotes vigorous growth.
Pruning and wiring: New shoots need to be shortened only by a little. It is best to pinch them back. In nature, the Bucida is generally windswept, which makes this an excellent choice for bonsai style. The plant’s natural growth makes it ideal for bonsai. It changes direction at every internode, making a bend of 25 to 35 degrees, which can be incorporated into the styling.
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