I’m relatively new to San Antonio, and even though I moved here from Austin, the climate and soil is different enough to introduce me to a whole host of plants that I had not encountered before. Being that San Antonio is more southern than Austin, it shares more climatic conditions with northern Mexico. As a result many plants that do well in Mexico do well here in San Antonio. One in particular that I have fallen in love with is Cordia boissieri.
Cordia boissieri, commonly known as Anachuita, Mexican Olive, or Wild Olive, is a woody plant native to northeastern Mexico and South Texas. Usually grown as a large shrub or small tree, the Texas Wild Olive has beautiful, dense, dark green foliage with a velvety texture. From spring through fall it blooms fragrant clusters of white flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators. Those flowers give way to olive-like fruits that also serve as a food source for birds and other wildlife.
It is normally found growing wild along stream beds and slopes and is relatively pest free. Although its fruits resemble olives, Wild Olive is not a member of the olive family and instead belongs to Boraginaceae, the Borage family. It will grow in San Antonio, and occasionally as far north as Austin.
Due to cold tolerance, it does not survive any further north than Austin without extra care as it can incur damage in extreme cold and frost conditions. As a result it is best to plant it where it is protected from winter winds and frost damage. It also prefers full sun, so avoid planting beneath dense canopies. If protected, it will stay evergreen. However, in December we experienced temperatures in the low twenties and the tops of many of the Wild Olive plants were damaged.
You won’t find this plant in a box store, so check with your local independent nursery or landscaper for availability.
Growth Habit: Large shrub or small tree growing 15-25 feet. Evergreen (semi-evergreen in severe cold). Flowers profusely spring through fall, giving way to olive-like fruit.
Light: Full Sun
Tolerance: Drough tolerant, cold tolerant to 28-30 degrees
Uses: Wildlife habitat, specimen, ornamental. Attracts birds, butterflies. Considered edible, but will cause dizziness and upset in excess. Used in folk medicine for treating coughs.