Native to South Africa, Olinia emarginata is an attractive, ornamental tree that is normally found in KwaZulu Natal, the Drakensberg and Gauteng.
The Mountain Hard Pear is classified as a small to medium sized tree and can grow to a height of 5 to 7 m. The size of the tree will vary from small in open areas to large in a forest habitat. It can be single- or multi-stemmed and has glossy, green foliage which forms a dense round crown. The tree is evergreen and the leaves are hairless with a darker shade of green on top and a pale green below. When crushed, the leaves emit a faint smell of almonds.
Flowering takes place from spring to summer and the flowers are carried in loose, axillary heads. The flowers are small with a light to dark pink colour and are slightly fragranced. After flowering, the tree forms cluster of small, round fruit which turn red in autumn, and hang on the tree until well into winter. The flowers and fruit attract insects and birds alike. The tree is best known for its interesting bark which is mottled with a flaky appearance. The trunk is grey or creamy-white in colour with orange tinged markings, which can create an interesting focal point in the garden.
The Mountain Hard Pear is frost hardy, but need sufficient water to flourish. It grows well in sunny positions and does not have an invasive root system, which makes it ideal for a smaller garden. This ornamental tree has a moderate growth rate and can be utilized as a screening tree. It will also grow well in a container and makes an excellent bonsai specimen. Please note that the tree is hard to cultivate and therefore not easily available at nurseries.