Question: Last fall we planted an olive tree that was certified to be nonfruit blooming. Now it is full of olives! I just want it to grow. So, should we pluck the little olives off the tree so it can put its energy into growth?
Yes, this can happen. Fruitless varieties such as Swan Hill are grafted onto an olive rootstock. The top of the tree is fruitless, but the bottom of the trunk below the location of the graft is not. Sometimes, in the nursery, the tops of some fruitless olives die back, leaving the rootstock (a fruiting olive) that grows instead.
The dead top (fruitless) is unknowingly pruned out or removed. The rootstock grows very rapidly and replaces the dead fruitless part of the plant.
This can result in a fruiting olive tree from the rootstock. Sometimes the tags get mixed up in the nursery as well and a fruiting variety is labeled a fruitless variety by accident. I would not remove the olives. It would be far too laborious and time-consuming, and the small benefit you would get is not worth the effort. There are some great olive recipes that you could experiment with.
Bob Morris is a professor emeritus in horticulture with the University of Nevada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com.