In the tradition of Olive Trees internationally, a particularly special 150 year plus Wild Olive Tree, sp. Olea europaea, was exhibited at Kirstenbosch in 1994 as the Peace Tree to commemorate President Mandela’s inauguration. 

The gnarled tree was literally rescued from a thicket of Port Jackson on a farm close to Stellenbosch.  After years of competing for light and water, it appeared to be on its way out when it was discovered in a severe state of die back by a member of the ‘Oyama Bonsai Kai  (Kai is Japanese for club).  After two uncertain years, the tree established strong new roots, began to grow again and is now a source of wonder.  For me Oliver the Bonsai is an inspiring metaphor – but I shall leave that to each of you to relate to or not!

In 1990 it was planted in pure sand in its present container and is one of the oldest bonsais in a container in South Africa.

In 1999, the Peace Tree was exhibited at the ‘Oyama’s Annual Easter Show where it delighted young and old as the world’s first talking tree.  As a talking tree it needed a name and Oliver was an obvious choice.  Oliver’s curator Len Redfern hid a mike in the tree and responded on Oliver’s behalf to a surprising number of surprised people who secretly enjoy talking to trees.

After the Easter Show, Oliver Bonsai  was donated by the ‘Oyama Bonsai Kai to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens so that this magnificent Wild Olive can be enjoyed by all who visit Kirstenbosch.  Today you can see Oliver Bonsai outside the Sanlam Lecture Hall in the upper section of the Botanical Garden.  The microphone has been removed, but this charismatic tree still speaks to you of strength, beauty and peace.

If you have a tree that has special significance to you or is a landmark tree in our Scenic South community, please share its story and a photograph with us.


2011 is the International Year of  Forests .  Take note that Arbour week in South Africa is from 1-7 September.  Plant a tree to celebrate a special life – your’s,  a friends, the Earth’s.  Click here for your tree blessing.