Picconia excelsa (Ait.) DC.

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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Picconia excelsa' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/picconia/picconia-excelsa/). Accessed 2024-06-17.


  • Olea excelsa Ait.
  • Notelaea excelsa (Ait.) Webb & Berth.

Other taxa in genus


Flower-bearing part of a plant; arrangement of flowers on the floral axis.
Narrowing gradually to a point.
Sharply pointed.
Flowering period; when flower fully open and pollen beginning to be shed.
(pl. apices) Tip. apical At the apex.
Situated in an axil.
Bluish or greyish waxy substance on leaves or fruits.
Immature shoot protected by scales that develops into leaves and/or flowers.
Running down as when a leaf extends along a stem.
Leaf arrangement where the leaves are in opposite pairs each pair at right angles to the preceding pair (as e.g. the scale leaves of Cupressaceae).
A fleshy dehiscent or indehiscent fruit with one to several seeds each enclosed in a hard endocarp (the stone).
An elliptic solid.
With an unbroken margin.
IUCN Red List conservation category: ‘there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual [of taxon] has died’.
Lacking hairs smooth. glabrescent Becoming hairless.
Smooth and shiny.
Leaf stalk.


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Article from Bean's Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles

Recommended citation
'Picconia excelsa' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/picconia/picconia-excelsa/). Accessed 2024-06-17.

Small evergreen tree or shrub to 40 ft (or even 60 ft) high. Leaves stiff, leathery, elliptic or broadly elliptic, acute at both ends or very slightly acuminate at the apex, slightly decurrent onto the petiole, mostly 3 to 4 in. long and 1 to 2 in. wide, entire, glabrous, dark green and slightly lustrous above, paler and duller beneath, petiole 14 to 12 in. long. Inflorescence axillary, decussate racemose 1 to 2 in. long lengthening rapidly at anthesis, sometimes two or three borne above one another, bracts in decussate pairs, 14 in. long, somewhat membranous, glabrous except for a minutely floccose-ciliolate margin, light green, early deciduous. Flowers white, sometimes sweetly scented; sepals four, small; petals four, imbricate in early bud, about 18 in. long, joined in pairs by the bases of the two filaments and between pairs only at the very base, irregularly notched, or rounded and shallowly bilobed or trilobed; stamens two about equal to petals. Fruit a dark blue ellipsoid drupe, 58 to 34 in. long, with a fine bloom, flesh very thin, stone shallowly ribbed.

Native of Madeira and the Canary Islands, introduced in 1784. It is marginally hardy in Britain, even in the south, and is not widely grown. Where, however, local conditions allow it to do so it can develop into a handsome and impressive evergreen tree, as in the case of the notable examples at Abbotsbury on the coast of Dorset, which flower well and fruit. The larger of these measures 55 × 812 ft (1972); at Caerhays, Cornwall, there is a two-stemmed tree 30 ft high.

The wood is reported to be extremely heavy and hard and has been much used in its native areas. In 1868 the Rev. R. T. Lowe writing in his A Manual Flora of Madeira remarks about ‘the yearly increasing scarceness of the tree, which indeed seems likely soon to become extinct altogether’.