Shrub or tree 1–12 m. Branchlets with some fine hairs. Leaves evergreen and leathery, (3–)5–7(–10) × 1.2–4.5 cm, elliptic to oblanceolate, glabrous, secondary veins sunken or obscure, six on each side of the midrib, margins entire or with sharp teeth 0.5–1 mm long, apex acute or rarely obtuse; petiole 0.3–0.7 cm long with fine hairs. Inflorescences axillary and paniculate, flowers in groups 2–4 cm long, glabrous or with sparse hairs. Flowers staminate or hermaphrodite; calyx with four triangular lobes, ciliate; corolla white or creamy yellow, tube 0.1–0.3 cm long. Drupe black and slightly fleshy, 0.7–1 cm long. Flowering February to November fruiting May to December (China). Green 2002. Distribution CHINA: Sichuan, Yunnan. Habitat Forests or thickets. USDA Hardiness Zone 8–9. Conservation status Not evaluated. Taxonomic note Olea yuennanensis was placed in synonymy with O. tsoongii (Merr.) P.S. Green by Green (1995), and this treatment was followed by Flora of China (Chang et al. 1996). However, O. yuennanensis was later reinstated by Green (2002). Olea tsoongii differs from O. yuennanensis in that the branchlets and petioles are glabrous and the inflorescences are 7–18 cm long (Green 2002). The incorrect spelling yunnanensis is a more or less inevitable trap.
Olea yuennanensis is still little known, but promises to be a useful broadleaved evergreen, with much wider leaves than expected in olives. Dan Hinkley (pers. comm. 2008) has seen it growing at low altitudes in dry areas along the Salween River in Yunnan, but in cultivation at least it is not a xerophyte and likes reliable summer moisture (Hogan 2008). Light shade from the hottest sun and shelter from very cold winds are also appreciated. It does seem to prefer a hot summer, however, and was not a success at Heronswood, where summers are too cool, and winter damage occurred at about –10 °C. Despite this it was offered for a few years (for example, Heronswood Nursery catalogues 1999–2001). The original plant may possibly have come from J.C. Raulston (D. Hinkley, pers. comm. 2008); no further information on its introduction has been traced. It is established in the southeastern and western United States, and the Cistus Nursery catalogue even suggests that it is a useful hedging plant.