Within 20 years of European settlement, most of the Adelaide Park Lands had been stripped bare of trees. By the 1850’s the early settlers used almost all the existing trees for firewood, fence posts, and to allow sheep, cattle and horses to graze.
As a result, most of the Park Lands had become bare dust-bowls in summer and quagmires in winter, especially here in King Rodney Park. This degradation led to an increased public demand for something to be done. The olive tree, so the argument went in the 1850’s “would ‘add to salubrity and beauty for the city and provide outdoor employment for the young, the poor, the blind, the maimed, the aged and destitute”. One objector of the day, however, thought “the frondage of the olive to be the most gloomy possible and…which could be likened to a horticultural cemetery”.
Originally, olives were seen as an optimal solution, being both fast growing and potentially lucrative. However, attempts by contractors to create an industry by processing the oil were patchy at best and eventually proved unsuccessful.
The olive grove here in King Rodney Park was planted in 1872. It completed an almost continuous belt of olive trees in the east Park Lands from the Adelaide Botanic Gardens to South Terrace. This grove, and another one across Wakefield Road in Victoria Park, both remain much as they were originally set out. You can register to collect olives from the trees in Adelaide’s Park Lands. You an apply via an online form from the City of Adelaide website. The permit is free. You are restricted to picking olives only for your domestic use.
The olive groves here are one of two separate “woodland” areas within Park 15. The other woodland area is a semi-forest of Blue Gums near Dequetteville Tce. It’s probably more significant (and certainly taller)
WALK FURTHER ALONG THIS PATH. TURN LEFT AT THE PATH INTERSECTION AND HEAD DOWNHILL TOWARDS THE CREEK., BUT NOT ACROSS THE BRIDGE.