I asked the wonderful Marcella Gilchrist, Site Manager and nature interpreter over at nearby
Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary, run by the good folks of CSU Fullerton. She had forgotten or never knew and, because she is a professional working science interpreter and not, like so many of my neighbors, amateur folklorists and fabulists, did not want to go out on a limb (tree joke, get it?) so instead recommended local experts who could, among them somebody called not at all mysteriously, “Bug Bob” (cuz he is an entomologist) and who, along with his co-author, has produced a remarkable book which, so far, has delighted me if not gotten anybody any closer to figuring out the Mystery of the Wrong Kind of Olive Tree. Here's as good as any a place to offer a photograph of examples of that charming and rare human specimen found, I am told, in the wilds of OC. These two answer to botanist, artist, author, entomologist, instructor or photographer. Both are locally grown, locally educated, with impressive CVs, and the title of their gorgeous 500-page book from, yes, the estimable Laguna Wilderness Press, is Wildflowers of Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains.
Meanwhile, no European olive trees, which should be pruned and kept small — not, like the feral ones in Modjeska Canyon, nearly 30 feet high — in the wildflower book, and no progress on actually identifying the perhaps problematic (or not) olive fruit which got me started on this little trip.
But on a post-storm hike yesterday morning down to observe the sawed up corpus of an old oak which came down, II observed that recently planted olive trees produce a much different cultivar, the ones that look, pleasingly, like the delicious varieties featured in a book recommended somewhere on my research hike by local Silverado branch librarian Ruth Loc. It's called The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree, and is a beautiful and authoritative text by Judith M. Taylor, medical doctor and amateur botanist with a passion for olive trees.