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Olea capensis

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Olea capensis, also known by the common name black ironwood,<ref name=GRIN>Template:GRIN</ref> is an African tree species belonging to the Olive family (Oleaceae). It is widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa from the east in Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan, south to the tip of South Africa, and west to Cameroon, Sierra Leone and the Islands of the Gulf of Guinea, as well as Madagascar and the Comoros.<ref name=WCSP/> It occurs in bush, littoral scrub and evergreen forest.<ref name="agro">Template:Cite web</ref>

Other common names in English include ironwood, ironwood olive, East African olive and Elgon olive.<ref name="agro"/>

O. c. subsp. macrocarpa, like all subspecies of black ironwood, can reach enormous proportions in the wild.


The black ironwood is a bushy shrub, or a small to medium-sized tree, up to Template:Convert in height, occasionally reaching Template:Convert.<ref name="agro"/>

  • Bark: light grey, becoming dark grey and vertically fissured with age; a characteristic blackish gum is exuded from bark wounds.
  • Leaves: light to dark green and glossy above and paler green below; petiole often purplish, 0.3–1.7 cm long; lanceolate-oblong to almost circular, 3–10 x 1.5–5 cm.
  • Flowers: white or cream and sweetly scented, small and in many flowered axillary or terminal heads, bisexual, 3–15 cm long.
  • Fruit: when ripe they are somewhat succulent purplish drupes; ovoid up to 2 x 1 cm.


The species has been divided into 3 subspecies:<ref name="agro"/>


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Olea capensis has masses of sweetly scented bisexual flowers, that produce large edible fruits.


The wood of the tree is very hard, fine grained, and heavy, and although difficult to work, it is widely used for art and artifacts.


Olea capensis is cultivated as an ornamental tree in parks and gardens.

The Guinness Book of World Records lists this tree as the world's heaviest wood, with a specific gravity of 1.49. It is known for its tendency to sink in water, unlike other wood materials. It is also the one of the world's hardest woods according to the Janka hardness test. The timber has a good abrasion resistance and is very strong. It is an excellent turnery wood, and is used for a wide range of decorative items.




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