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This family is widespread throughout the world in all but the coldest northern and southern regions. In Australia, most are found in sclerophyll forests and rainforests in eastern Australia, although some species of Jasminum extend to arid areas and into Western Australia.

Characteristic features of the family Oleaceae in Australia include:

  • small trees, shrubs or woody lianes, with usually opposite, simple and untoothed leaves, often with multiple buds in the leaf axils
  • flowers usually small, white or cream, in small panicles or sometimes in decussate spikes
  • sepals very small, forming a cup with minute teeth; petals larger, 4 (rarely to 10) united into a short or long tube or (Notolaea) apparently free and in pairs
  • stamens usually 2
  • ovary superior, developing into a drupe (rarely a berry or a winged samara)


Evergreen or deciduous trees, or shrubs, or woody or herbaceous scrambling vines. Extra-floral nectaries absent, or on the stems or leaves. Internal secretions not obvious, or of essential oils. Plants glabrous, or with simple, non-glandular, unicellular hairs or peltate scales. Leaves opposite, or rarely alternate and spiral, petiolate. Stipules and stipellae absent. Lamina simple, or once compound, trifoliolate, imparipinnate, symmetric; lamina/leaflets filiform, acicular, subulate, linear, lanceolate, ovate or elliptic; base cuneate, attenuate, rounded, cordate or oblique; margins entire, crenulate or serrate, ±flat; one-veined, or the venation pinnate, with the midrib conspicuous, and the tertiary venation reticulate or not; surfaces not punctate; herbaceous or leathery. Domatia absent or consisting of pits, pockets or hair tufts in the vein angles. All the flowers bisexual. Inflorescences terminal or axillary, consisting of racemes, panicles, cymes or corymbs. Bracts present or absent. Pollination by insects. Flowers odourless, malodorous or fragrant, stalked or sessile. Floral disc present or absent; nectaries present on the disc. Perianth regular, of 2 dissimilar whorls. Calyx segments fused, with 4–5 lobes, valvate or open in bud; calyx funnel-shaped or tubular, herbaceous. Corolla segments free, semi-fused or fused, with 4–10 petals or lobes, alternating with the calyx lobes, imbricate or valvate in bud; corolla wheel-shaped, bell-shaped or salver-shaped, white, cream, yellow, red, magenta, purple, blue or green, without contrasting markings, membranous, thick or succulent; claws absent; lobes ±entire. Fertile stamens 2, opposite to the calyx lobes, free or at least partly fused to the corolla, free of the ovary and style, distinct from each other, all ±equal. Anthers dorsifixed, versatile or not, opening sideways or inwards by longitudinal slits, 2-celled. Ovary superior and sessile. Carpels 2, fused; ovary with 2 locules. Style terminal, single and unbranched, or single and branched above, with the stigma lobed. Ovules 1–2 per locule; placentation axile. Fruit dry or fleshy, dehiscent or indehiscent; a circumscissile or loculicidal capsule, or samara, berry or a drupe; the perianth on the maturing fruit deciduous or dry and persistent. Disseminule macro-surface featureless or winged; micro-surface ±smooth, white, pink, magenta, purple, violet, blue or black, glossy or dull. Seeds 1 per fruit. Aril absent. Cotyledons 2. Embryo straight.
(Note: this description has been generated from the coded data compiled for the key. Any errors in the key data will be reflected in the descriptions.)

A treatment of the family Oleaceae has not yet been published in the Flora of Australia. It will appear in Volume 32.

Australian genera of Oleaceae (as recognised for the Flora of Australia)

† = some species native, others introduced
* = all species introduced


Chionanthus ramiflorus (flowers)
Photo: G.Sankowski © Zodiac Publications 

Chionanthus ramiflorus (fruits)
Photo: D.Jones © D.Jones 

Jasminum didymum ssp. didymum (fruits)
Photo: G.Leiper © G.Leiper 

Jasminum lineare (flowers)
Photo: J.Wrigley © ANBG