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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Olive Tree
Olea europaea, Dead Sea, Jordan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Oleaceae
Genus: Olea
Species: O. europaea
Binomial name
Olea europaea
19th century illustration

The Olive (Olea europaea) is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin (the adjoining coastal areas of southeastern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa) as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. The tree and its fruit give its name to the plant family, which also includes species such as lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia and the true ash trees (Fraxinus). The word 'oil' in many languages ultimately derives from the name of the tree and its fruit.



The olive tree is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 metres (26–49 ft) in height. The silvery green leaves are oblong in shape, measuring 4–10 centimetres (1.6–3.9 in) long and 1–3 centimetres (0.39–1.2 in) wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.

The small white flowers, with ten-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the last year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.

The fruit is a small drupe 1–2.5 centimetres (0.39–0.98 in) long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested at the green stage (green olives) or left to ripen to a rich purple colour (black olives). Canned black olives may contain chemicals that turn them black artificially.


The olive is one of the plants most often cited in literature. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock,[1] and in the Iliad,(XVII.53ff) is a metaphoric description of a lone olive tree in the mountains, by a spring; the Greeks observed that the olive rarely thrives at a distance from the sea, which in Greece invariably means up mountain slopes. Greek myth attributed to the primordial culture-hero Aristaeus the understanding of olive husbandry, along with cheese-making and bee-keeping.[2] Olive was one of the woods used to fashion the most primitive Greek cult figures, called xoana, referring to their wooden material; they were reverently preserved for centuries.[3] It was purely a matter of local pride that the Athenians claimed that the olive grew first in Athens.[4] In an archaic Athenian foundation myth, Athena won the patronship of Attica from Poseidon with the gift of the olive. Though, according to the 4th-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, olive trees ordinarily attained an age of about 200 years,[5] he mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis; it was still to be seen there in the second century AD;[6] and when Pausanias was shown it, ca 170 AD, he reported "Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down, but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits;"[7] indeed, the olive suckers readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage.

The Roman poet Horace mentions it in reference to his own diet, which he describes as very simple: "As for me, olives, endives, and smooth mallows provide sustenance."[8] Lord Monboddo comments on the olive in 1779 as one of the foods preferred by the ancients and as one of the most perfect foods.[9].

The leafy branches of the olive tree - the olive leaf as a symbol of abundance, glory and peace - were used to crown the victors of friendly games and bloody wars. As emblems of benediction and purification, they were also ritually offered to deities and powerful figures; some were even found in Tutankhamen's tomb.

Olive oil has long been considered sacred; it was used to anoint kings and athletes in ancient Greece. It was burnt in the sacred lamps of temples as well as being the "eternal flame" of the original Olympic Games. Victors in these games were crowned with its leaves. Today, it is still used in many religious ceremonies.

Over the years, the olive has been the symbol of peace, wisdom, glory, fertility, power and pureness. The olive tree and olives are mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, in both the New and Old Testaments. It is one of the first plants mentioned in the Bible, and one of the most significant. For example, it was an olive leaf that a dove brought back to Noah to demonstrate that the flood was over. The Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem is mentioned several times. The Allegory of the Olive Tree in chapter 5 of the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, refers to the scattering and gathering of Israel. It compares the Israelites and gentiles to tame and wild olive trees. The olive tree itself, as well as olive oil and olives, play an important role in the Bible.[10] The olive is praised in the Quran as a precious fruit.

The olive tree and olive oil are mentioned seven times in the Quran. In Chapter 24 Al-Nur: "Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The metaphor of His Light is that of a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp inside a glass, the glass like a brilliant star, lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, its oil all but giving off light even if no fire touches it. Light upon Light. Allah guides to His Light whoever He wills and Allah makes metaphors for mankind and Allah has knowledge of all things." (Quran, 24:35). Olive tree and olive oil health benefits have been propounded in Prophetic medicine. The Prophet Mohamed is reported to have said: "Take oil of olive and massage with it - it is a blessed tree" (Sunan al-Darimi, 69:103).

The olive tree seems to have been native in the Mediterranean region and Western Asia and spread to nearby countries from there. It is estimated the cultivation of olive trees began more than 7000 years ago. As far back as 3000 BC, olives were grown commercially in Crete; they may have been the source of the wealth of the Minoan Civilization.[11] The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health.

Theophrastus, in On the Nature of Plants, does not give as systematic and detailed an account of olive husbandry as he does of the vine, but he makes clear (in 1.16.10) that the cultivated olive must be vegetatively propagated; indeed, the pits give rise to thorny, wild-type olives, spread far and wide by birds. Theophrastus reports how the bearing olive can be grafted on the wild olive, for which the Greeks had a separate name, kotinos.[12]

After the 16th century, the Europeans brought the olive to the New World, and its cultivation began in Mexico, Peru, Chile and Argentina, and then in the 18th century in California. It is estimated that there are about 800 million olive trees in the world today, and the vast majority of these are found in Mediterranean countries.[citation needed]

Old olive trees

Olive tree “Olea europea” on Bar, Montenegro which is over 2,000 years old

Olive trees are very hardy, drought-, disease- and fire-resistant, and can live for a very long time. Its root system is very robust and capable of regenerating the tree even if the above-ground structure is destroyed. The older an olive tree is, the broader and gnarlier its trunk appears. Many olive trees in the groves around the Mediterranean are said to be several centuries old, and in some cases this has been verified scientifically.

Pliny the Elder told of a sacred Greek olive tree that was 1,600 years old. Several trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (from the Hebrew words "gat shemanim" or olive press) in Jerusalem are claimed to date back to the time of Jesus.[13] Some Italian olive trees are believed to date back to Roman times, although identifying progenitor trees in ancient sources is difficult.

One olive tree in Bar, Montenegro, is claimed to be over 2,000 years old [14].

Also, the age of an olive tree in Crete, claimed to be over 2,000 years old, has been determined on the basis of tree ring analysis.[15] Another well-known olive tree on the island of Brijuni (Brioni), Istria in Croatia, has been calculated to be about 1,600 years old. It still gives fruit (about 30 kg/66 lb per year), which is made into top quality olive oil.[16]

An olive tree in west Athens, named "Plato's Olive Tree", was rumored to be a remnant of the grove within which Plato's Academy was situated, which would date it to approximately 2,400 years ago. The tree was a cavernous trunk from which a few branches were still sprouting in 1975, when a traffic accident caused a bus to fall on and uproot it. Since then the trunk is preserved and displayed in the nearby Agricultural University of Athens. A supposedly even older tree, called the "Peisistratos Tree", is located by the banks of the Cephisus River, in the municipality of Agioi Anargyroi, and is said to be a remnant of an olive grove planted by Athenian tyrant Peisistratos in the 6th century BC.

According to a recent scientific survey, there are tens of ancient olive trees throughout Biblical Israel, 1,600-2,000 years old,[17] from even before the rise of Islam. Specifically, two giant olive trees in the Arab town of Arraba and five trees in Deir Hanna, both in Galilee region, have been determined to be over 3,000 years old. All seven trees continue to produce olives.[17]

A tree located in Santu Baltolu di Carana in Sardinia, Italy, named with respect as the Ozzastru by the inhabitants of the region, is claimed to be 3,000 to 4,000 years old according to different studies. In the same natural garden, a few other millenary trees can be admired.

Cultivation and uses

An example of black olives

The olive tree has been cultivated for olive oil, fine wood, olive leaf, and the olive fruit. The earliest evidence for the domestication of olives comes from the Chalcolithic Period archaeological site of Teleilat Ghassul in what is today modern Jordan.

Farmers in ancient times believed olive trees would not grow well if planted more than a short distance from the sea; Theophrastus gives 300 stadia (55.6 km/34.5 mi) as the limit. Modern experience does not always confirm this, and, though showing a preference for the coast, it has long been grown further inland in some areas with suitable climates, particularly in the southwestern Mediterranean (Iberia, northwest Africa) where winters are mild.

Olive plantation in Andalucia, Spain

Olives are now cultivated in many regions of the world with Mediterranean climates, such as South Africa, Chile, Australia, the Mediterranean Basin, Israel, Palestinian Territories and California and in areas with temperate climates such as New Zealand, under irrigation in the Cuyo region in Argentina which has a desert climate. They are also grown in the Córdoba Province, Argentina, which has a temperate climate with rainy summers and dry winters (Cwa).[18] The climate in Argentina changes the external characteristics of the plant but the fruit keeps its original characteristics.[19]

A selection of olives in a market in Tel Aviv, Israel

Considerable research supports the health-giving benefits of consuming olives, olive leaf and olive oil (see external links below for research results). Olive leaves are used in medicinal teas.

Olives are now being looked at for use as a renewable energy source, using waste produced from the olive plants as an energy source that produces 2.5 times the energy generated by burning the same amount of wood. The smoke released has no negative impact on neighbors or the environment, and the ash left in the stove can be used for fertilizing gardens and plants. The process has been patented in the Middle East and the US.[20]


There are six natural subspecies distributed over a wide range: [21]

  • Olea europaea subsp. europaea (Mediterranean Basin)
  • Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata (from South Africa throughout East Africa, Arabia to South West China)
  • Olea europaea subsp. guanchica (Canaries)
  • Olea europaea subsp. cerasiformis (Madeira)
  • Olea europaea subsp. maroccana (Morocco)
  • Olea europaea subsp. laperrinei (Algeria, Sudan, Niger)

The subspecies maroccana and cerasiformis are respectively hexaploid and tetraploid. [22]


There are thousands of cultivars of the olive. In Italy alone at least three hundred cultivars have been enumerated, but only a few are grown to a large extent. None of these can be accurately identified with ancient descriptions, though it is not unlikely that some of the narrow-leaved cultivars most esteemed may be descendants of the Licinian olive. The Iberian olives are usually cured and eaten, often after being pitted, stuffed (with pickled pimento, anchovies, or other fillings) and packed in brine in jars or tins. Some also pickle olives at home.

Olives being home-pickled

Since many cultivars are self sterile or nearly so, they are generally planted in pairs with a single primary cultivar and a secondary cultivar selected for its ability to fertilize the primary one. In recent times, efforts have been directed at producing hybrid cultivars with qualities such as resistance to disease, quick growth and larger or more consistent crops.

Some particularly important cultivars of olive include:

  • 'Amfissa', excellent quality Greek table olive grown in Amfissa, Central Greece near the oracle of Delphi. Amfissa olives enjoy PDO (Protected designation of origin) status and are equally good for olive oil extraction. The olive grove of Amfissa, which consists of 1,200,000 olive trees is a part of a protected natural landscape.
  • 'Gemlik', variety from the Gemlik area of northern Turkey. They are small to medium sized black olives with a high oil content. This type of olive is very common in Turkey and is sold as a breakfast olive in the cured formats of either Yagli Sele, Salamura or Duble; though there are other less common curings. The sign of a traditionally cured Gemlik olive is that the flesh comes away from the pip easily.
  • 'Bosana', the most common olive grown on Sardinia. It is used mostly for oils.
  • 'Manzanilla', a large, rounded-oval fruit, with purple-green skin, originating in Dos Hermanas, Seville, in southern Spain. Rich taste and thick pulp. A prolific bearer, grown around the world.
  • 'Frantoio' and 'Leccino'. These cultivars are the principal participants in Italian olive oils from Tuscany. Leccino has a mild sweet flavour while Frantoio is fruity with a stronger aftertaste. Due to their highly valued flavour, these cultivars are now grown in other countries.
  • 'Arbequina', a small, brown olive grown in Catalonia, Spain, good for eating and for oil.
  • 'Cornicabra', originating in Toledo, Spain, comprises about 12% of Spain's production. It is mainly used for oil.
  • 'Empeltre', a medium-sized black olive grown in Spain, good for eating and for oil.
  • 'Hojiblanca', originating in the province of Córdoba, Spain, its oil is widely appreciated for its slightly bitter flavour.
  • 'Kalamata', a large, black olive with a smooth and meatlike taste, named after the city of Kalamata, Greece, used as a table olive. These olives are usually preserved in vinegar or olive oil. Kalamata olives enjoy PDO (Protected designation of origin) status.[23]
  • 'Koroneiki', originating from the southern Peloponese, around Kalamata and Mani in Greece. This small olive, though difficult to cultivate, has a high yield of olive oil of exceptional quality.
  • 'Picholine' or 'pecholine', originating in the south of France. It is green, medium size, and elongated. The flavour is mild and nutty.
  • 'Picual', originating in southern Spain (province of Jaén), it is the most widely cultivated olive in Spain, comprising about 50% of Spain's olive production and around 20% of world olive production. It has a strong but sweet flavour, and is widely used in Spain as a table olive. Moreover, its oil has some of the best chemical properties found in olive oil, being the richest in oleic acid and vitamin E.[citation needed]
  • 'Lucques', originating in the south of France (Aude département). They are green, large, and elongated. The stone has an arcuated shape. Their flavour is mild and nutty.
  • 'Souri', originating in Lebanon(the town of Sur (Tyre)) and widespread in the Levant. It has a high oil yield and exceptionally aromatic flavour.
  • 'Nabali', a Palestinian cultivar[24] also known locally as 'Baladi', which, along with 'Souri' and 'Malissi', is considered to produce among the highest quality olive oil in the world.[25]
  • 'Barnea', a modern cultivar bred in Israel to be disease-resistant and to produce a generous crop. It is used both for oil and for table olives. The oil has a strong flavour with a hint of green leaf. Barnea is widely grown in Israel and in the southern hemisphere, particularly in Australia and New Zealand.
  • 'Maalot' (Hebrew for merits), another modern Israeli, disease-resistant, Eastern Mediterranean cultivar derived from the North African 'Chemlali' cultivar. The olive is medium sized, round, has a fruity flavour and is used almost exclusively for oil production.
  • 'Mission' originated on the California Missions and is now grown throughout the state. They are black and generally used for table consumption.

Growth and propagation

Olive trees show a marked preference for calcareous soils, flourishing best on limestone slopes and crags, and coastal climate conditions. They grow in any light soil, even on clay if well drained, but in rich soils they are predisposed to disease and produce poorer oil than in poorer soil. (This was noted by Pliny the Elder.) Olives like hot weather, and temperatures below −10 °C (14.0 °F) may injure even a mature tree. They tolerate drought well, thanks to their sturdy and extensive root system. Olive trees can live exceptionally long, up to several centuries, and can remain productive for as long, if they are pruned correctly and regularly.

Olives grow very slowly, and over many years the trunk can attain a considerable diameter. A. P. de Candolle recorded one exceeding 10 metres (33 ft) in girth. The trees rarely exceed 15 metres (49 ft) in height, and are generally confined to much more limited dimensions by frequent pruning. The yellow or light greenish-brown wood is often finely veined with a darker tint; being very hard and close-grained, it is valued by woodworkers. There are only a handlful of olive varieties that can be used to cross-pollinate. Pendolino olive trees are partially self-fertile, but you need pollenizers if you want a large fruit crop. Other compatible olive tree pollenizers include Leccino and Maurino. Pendolino olive trees are used extensively as pollenizers in large olive tree groves.

Olives are propagated in various ways. The preferred ways are cuttings or layers; the tree roots easily in favourable soil and throws up suckers from the stump when cut down. However, yields from trees grown from suckers or seeds are poor; it must be budded or grafted onto other specimens to do well (Lewington and Parker, 114). Branches of various thickness cut into lengths of about 1 metre (3.3 ft) and planted deeply in manured ground, soon vegetate. Shorter pieces are sometimes laid horizontally in shallow trenches and, when covered with a few centimetres of soil, rapidly throw up sucker-like shoots. In Greece, grafting the cultivated tree on the wild tree is a common practice. In Italy, embryonic buds, which form small swellings on the stems, are carefully excised and planted under the soil surface, where they soon form a vigorous shoot.

Occasionally, large branches are marched to obtain young trees. The olive is also sometimes grown from seed; to facilitate germination, the oily pericarp is first softened by slight rotting, or soaking in hot water or in an alkaline solution.

Where the olive is carefully cultivated, as in Languedoc and Provence, the trees are regularly pruned. The pruning preserves the flower-bearing shoots of the preceding year, while keeping the tree low enough to allow the easy gathering of the fruit. The spaces between the trees are regularly fertilized. The crop from old trees is sometimes enormous, but they seldom bear well two years in succession, and in many cases a large harvest occurs every sixth or seventh season.

Olive Trees in Turkish famous oil region, Edremit Bay

Fruit harvest and processing

Olives are harvested in the autumn and winter. More specifically, green olives are picked at the end of September to about the middle of November. Blond olives are picked from the middle of October to the end of November and Black olives are collected from the middle of November to the end of January or early February. In southern Europe, harvesting is done for several weeks in winter, but the time varies in each country, and with the season and the cultivar.

Most olives today are harvested by shaking the boughs or the whole tree. Using olives found lying on the ground can result in poor quality oil. Another method involves standing on a ladder and "milking" the olives into a sack tied around the harvester's waist.[citation needed] A third method uses a device called an oli-net that wraps around the tree trunk and opens to form an umbrella-like catcher from which workers collect the fruit. Another method uses an electric tool, the oliviera, that has large tongs that spin around quickly, removing fruit from the tree. This method is used for olives used for oil. Table olive varieties are more difficult to harvest, as workers must take care not to damage the fruit; baskets that hang around the worker's neck are used. In some places in Italy and Greece, olives are harvested by hand because the terrain is too mountainous for machines. As a result, the fruit is not bruised, which leads to a superior finished product. The method also involves sawing off branches, which is healthy for future production. [26]

The amount of oil contained in the fruit differs greatly by cultivar; the pericarp is usually 60–70% oil. Typical yields are 1.5–2.2 kg (3.3–4.9 lb) of oil per tree per year.[27]

Traditional fermentation and curing

Green and black olives

Olives are a naturally bitter fruit that is typically subjected to fermentation or cured with lye or brine to make it more palatable.

Green olives and black olives are typically washed thoroughly in water to remove oleuropein, a bitter carbohydrate. Sometimes they are also soaked in a solution of food grade sodium hydroxide in order to accelerate the process.

Green olives are allowed to ferment before being packed in a brine solution. American black ("California") olives are not fermented, which is why they taste milder than green olives.

Freshly picked olive fruit is not palatable because it contains phenolic compounds and oleuropein, a glycoside which makes the fruit too bitter although not unhealthy.[26] (One exception is the Thassos Olive, which can be eaten fresh.) There are many ways of processing olives for eating. Traditional methods use the natural microflora on the fruit and procedures which select for those flora that ferment the fruit. This fermentation leads to three important outcomes: the leaching out and breakdown of oleuropein and phenolic compounds; the creation of lactic acid, which is a natural preservative; and a complex of flavoursome fermentation products. The result is a product which will store with or without refrigeration.

One basic fermentation method involves a 10% solution of salt and vinegar in water. The ratio is 10 kg (22 lb) olives to 7 liters of water, 800 g (28 oz) salt and 300 ml (10 US fl oz) of vinegar. Fresh are often sold at markets. Olives can be used green, ripe green (a yellower shade of green, or green with hints of colour), through to full purple black ripeness. Olives should be selected for general good condition and for firmness if green. The olives are soaked in water to wash, then drained. 7 liters (7 kg/15 lb) of room temperature water is added to a container, plus 800 g (28 oz) of sea salt and 1 cup (300 g/11 oz) of white wine or cider vinegar. Each olive is slit deeply with a small knife; large fruit (e.g., 60 fruit per kg) should be slit in multiple places. After some weeks, the salinity drops from 10% to around 5 to 6% once the water in the olives moves into solution and the salt moves into the olives. The olives are weighed down with an inert object such as a plate so they are fully immersed and lightly sealed in their container. The gases of fermentation should be able to escape. It is possible to use a plastic bag partially filled with water, and lay this over the top as a venting lid which also provides a good seal. The exclusion of oxygen is helpful, but not as critical as when fermenting grapes to produce wine. The olives are edible within 2 weeks to a month, but can be left to cure for up to three months. They can be tasted at any time because the bitter compounds are not poisonous, and oleuropein is a useful antioxidant in the human diet.

Curing can be done by several methods: lye-curing, salt-curing, brine-curing and fresh water-curing. Salt-curing (also known as dry-curing) involves packing the olives in plain salt for at least a month, which produces a salty and wrinkled olive. Brine-curing involves placing the olives in a salt water solution for a few days or more. Fresh-water curing involves soaking the olives in a succession of baths, of which the water is changed daily.[26] Green olives are usually firmer than black olives.

Olives can also be flavoured by soaking them in various marinades, or removing the pit and stuffing them. Popular flavourings are herbs, spices, olive oil, feta, capsicum (pimento), chili, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic cloves, wine, vinegar, juniper berries and anchovies. Sometimes, the olives are lightly cracked with a hammer or a stone to trigger fermentation. This method of curing adds a slightly bitter taste.

Pests, diseases, and weather

A fungus, Cycloconium oleaginum, can infect the trees for several successive seasons, causing great damage to plantations. A species of bacterium, Pseudomonas savastanoi pv. oleae[28], induces tumour growth in the shoots. Certain lepidopterous caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers. More serious damage is caused by olive-fly attacks to the fruit.

A pest which spreads through olive trees is the black scale bug, a small black beetle that resembles a small black spot. They attach themselves firmly to olive trees and reduce the quality of the fruit; their main predators are wasps. The curculio beetle eats the edges of leaves, leaving sawtooth damage.[29]

Rabbits eat the bark of olive trees and can do considerable damage, especially to young trees. If the bark is removed around the entire circumference of a tree it is likely to die.

In France and north-central Italy, olives suffer occasionally from frost. Gales and long-continued rains during the gathering season also cause damage.


Olives are the most extensively cultivated fruit crop in the world.[30] Cultivation area tripled from 2,600,000 to 8,500,000 hectares (6,400,000 to 21,000,000 acres) between 1960 and 2004. The ten largest producing countries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, are all located in the Mediterranean region and produce 95% of the world's olives.


Main countries of production (Year 2007)
Rank Country/Region Production
(in tons)
Cultivated area
(in hectares)
World 17,317,089 8,597,064 20.1
1  Spain 6,222,100 2,400,000 25.7
2  Italy 3,429,771 1,140,685 27.6
3  Greece 2,444,230 765,000 31.4
4  Turkey 1,075,854 594,000 30.3
5  Tunisia 998,000 1,500,000 3.3
6  Morocco 659,100 550,000 8.5
7  Syria 495,310 498,981 20.0
8  Egypt 318,000 49,888 63.8
9  Algeria 208,952 178,000 16.9
10  Portugal 280,000 430,000 6.5
11  Lebanon 76,200 250,000 6.5

As an invasive species

Since its first domestication, Olea europaea has been spreading back to the wild from planted groves. Its original wild populations in southern Europe have been largely swamped by feral plants.[31]

In some other parts of the world where it has been introduced, most notably South Australia, the olive has become a major woody weed that displaces native vegetation. In South Australia its seeds are spread by the introduced red fox and by many bird species including the European starling and the native emu into woodlands where they germinate and eventually form a dense canopy that prevents regeneration of native trees.[32] As the climate of South Australia is very dry and bushfire prone, the oil rich feral Olive tree substantially increases the fire hazard of native Sclerophyll woodlands.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Homer, Odyssey, book 5".
  2. ^ "He learned from the Nymphai how to curdle milk, to make bee-hives, and to cultivate olive-trees, and was the first to instruct men in these matters." (Diodorus Siculus, 4. 81. 1).
  3. ^ Towards the end of the second century AD the traveler Pausanias saw many such archaic cult figures.
  4. ^ "Indeed it is said that at that [ancient] time there were no olives anywhere save at Athens." (Herodotus, 5. 82. 1 ).
  5. ^ Theophrastus, On the Causes of Plants,, 4.13.5., noted by Signe Isager and Jens Erik Skydsgaard, Ancient Greek Agriculture, An introduction, 1992, p. 38.
  6. ^ "...which is still shown in the Pandroseion" (pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, 3.14.1).
  7. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 27. 1.
  8. ^ "Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea levesque malvae." Horace, Odes 1.31.15, ca 30 BC
  9. ^ Letter from Lord Monboddo to John Hope, 29 April, 1779; reprinted by William Knight 1900 ISBN 1855062070
  10. ^ Balfour, John Hutton, "Plants of the Bible" 1885. Available through Google Books
  11. ^ Gooch, Ellen, "10+1 Things you may not know about olive oil", Epikouria Magazine, Fall/Spring (2005)
  12. ^ Isager and Skydsgaard 1992, p. 35.
  13. ^ Lewington, A., & Parker, E. (1999) Ancient Trees., pp 110–113, London: Collins & Brown Ltd. ISBN 1-85585-704-9
  14. ^ Muncipality Bar, "Kod Starog Bara u Tombi (Mirovica) nalazi se maslina stara više od 2,000 godina"- Near the Old Bar in Tombi, there is an olive tree which is 2,000 years old
  15. ^ O. Rackham, J. Moody, The Making of the Cretan Landscape, 1996, cited in F. R. Riley (2002). Olive Oil Production on Bronze Age Crete: Nutritional properties, Processing methods, and Storage life of Minoan olive oil. Oxford Journal of Archaeology 21 (1): 63–75
  16. ^ "Old Olive Tree". Brijuni National Park. Retrieved 2007-03-10. 
  17. ^ a b M. Kislew, Y. Tabak & O. Simhoni, Identifying the Names of Fruits in Ancient Rabbinic Literature, Leshonenu (Hebrew), vol. 69, p.279
  18. ^ Enciclopedia Universal Europeo Americana. Volume 15. Madrid. 1981. Espasa-Calpe S.A. ISBN 84-239-4-500-6 (Complete Encyclopedia) and ISBN 84-239-4-515-4 (Volume 15 )
  19. ^ Discriminación de variedades de olivo a través del uso de caracteres morfológigos y de marcadores moleculares. 2001. Cavagnaro P., J. Juárez, M Bauza & R.W. Masuelli. AGRISCIENTA. Volume 18:27-35
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Green PS (2002) A revision of Olea L. Kew Bulletin 57:91–140; Besnard G, Rubio de Casas R, Christin PA, Vargas P (2009) Phylogenetics of Olea (Oleaceae) based on plastid and nuclear ribosomal DNA sequences: Tertiary climatic shifts and lineage differentiation times. Annals of Botany 104, 143-160
  22. ^ Besnard G, Garcia-Verdugo C, Rubio de Casas R, Treier UA, Galland N, Vargas P (2008) Polyploidy in the Olive Complex (Olea europaea): Evidence from Flow Cytometry and Nuclear Microsatellite Analyses. Annals of Botany 101, 25-30
  23. ^ Fotiadi, Elena "Unusual Olives", Epikouria Magazine (Spring/Summer 2006)
  24. ^ Belaj et al. (September 2002). "Genetic diversity and relationships in olive (Olea europaea L.) germplasm collections as determined by randomly amplified polymorphic DNA". TAG Theoretical and Applied Genetics (Springer Berlin / Heidelberg) (vol. 105, Number 4). Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  25. ^ PFTA & Canaan Fair Trading. "A Brief Study of Olives and Olive Oil in Palestine". Zatoun. Retrieved 2007-08-31. 
  26. ^ a b c "Unusual Olives", Epikouria Magazine, Spring/Summer 2006
  27. ^ Riley, op.cit.
  28. ^ Janse, J. D. 1982. Pseudomonas syringae subsp. savastanoi (ex Smith) subsp. nov., nom. rev., the bacterium causing excrescences on Oleaceae and Nerium oleander L. Int. J. Syst. Bacteriol. 32:166–169.
  29. ^ Burr, M. 1999. Australian Olives. A guide for growers and producers of virgin oils, 4th edition.
  30. ^ "FAO, 2004". Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  31. ^ Lumaret, R. & Ouazzani, N. (2001) Ancient wild olives in Mediterranean forests. Nature 413: 700
  32. ^ Dirk HR Spennemann & Allen, L.R. (2000) Feral olives (Olea europaea) as future woody weeds in Australia: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 40: 889–901.
  33. ^ Olives as Weeds Animal and Plant Control Commission of South Australia

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

OLIVE (Olea europaea), the plant that yields the olive oil of commerce, belonging to a section of the natural order Oleaceae, of which it has been taken as the type. The genus Olea includes about thirty species, very widely scattered, chiefly over the Old World, from the basin of the Mediterranean to South Africa and New Zealand. The wild olive is a small tree or bush of rather straggling growth, with thorny branches and opposite oblong pointed leaves, dark greyish-green above and, in the young state, hoary beneath with whitish scales; the small white flowers, with four-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne on the last year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves; the drupaceous fruit is small in the wild plant, and the fleshy pericarp, which gives the cultivated olive its economic value, is hard and comparatively thin. In the cultivated forms the tree acquires a more compact habit, the branches lose their spinous character, while the young shoots become more or less angular; the leaves are always hoary on the under-side, and are generally lanceolate in shape, though varying much in breadth and size in the different kinds. The fruit is subject to still greater changes of form and colour; usually oval or nearly globular, in some sorts it is egg-shaped, in others much elongated; while the dark hue that it commonly assumes when ripe is exchanged in many varieties for violet, green or almost white. At present the wild olive is found in most of the countries around the Mediterranean, extending its range on the west to Portugal, and eastward to the vicinity of the Caspian, while, locally, it occurs even in Afghanistan. An undoubted native of Syria and the maritime parts of Asia Minor, its abundance in Greece and the islands of the Archipelago, and the frequent allusions to it by the earliest poets, seem to indicate that it was there also indigenous; but in localities remote from the Levant it may have escaped from cultivation, reverting more or less to its primitive type. It shows a marked preference for calcareous soils and a partiality for the sea-breeze, flourishing with especial luxuriance on the limestone slopes and crags that often form the shores of the Greek peninsula and adjacent islands.

The varieties of olive known to the modern cultivator are extremely numerous - according to some authorities equalling or exceeding in number those of the vine. In France and Italy at least thirty kinds have been enumerated, but comparatively few are grown to any large extent. None of these can be safely identified with ancient descriptions, though it is not unlikely that some of the narrow-leaved sorts that are most esteemed may be descendants of the famed "Licinian" (see below). Italy retains its old pre-eminence in olive cultivation; and, though its ancient Gallic province now excels it in the production of the finer oils, its fast-improving culture may restore the old prestige. The broad-leaved olive trees of Spain bear a larger fruit, but the pericarp is of more bitter flavour and the oil of ranker quality. The olive tree, even when free increase is unchecked by pruning, is of very slow growth; but, where allowed for ages its natural development, the trunk sometimes attains a considerable diameter. De Candolle records one exceeding 23 ft. in girth, the age being supposed to amount to seven centuries. Some old Italian olives have been credited with an antiquity reaching back to the first years of the empire, or even to the days of republican Rome; but the age of such ancient trees is always doubtful during growth, and their identity with old descriptions still more difficult to establish. The tree in cultivation rarely exceeds 30 ft. in height, and in France and Italy is generally confined to muchmore limited dimensions by frequent pruning. The wood, of a yellow or light greenishbrown hue, is often finely veined with a darker tint, and, being very hard and close grained, is valued by the cabinetmaker and ornamental turner.

The olive is propagated in various ways, but cuttings or layers are generally preferred; the tree roots in favourable soil almost as easily as the willow, and throws up suckers from the stump when cut down. Branches of various thickness are cut into lengths of several feet each, and, planted rather deeply in manured ground, soon vegetate; shorter pieces are sometimes laid horizontally in shallow trenches, when, covered with a few inches of soil, they rapidly throw up suckerlike shoots. In Greece and the islands grafting the cultivated tree on the wild form is a common practice. In Italy embryonic buds, which form small swellings on the stems, are carefully excised and planted beneath the surface, where they grow readily, these "uovoli" soon forming a vigorous shoot. Occasionally the larger boughs are inarched, and young trees thus soon obtained. The olive is also sometimes raised from seed, the oily pericarp being first softened by slight rotting, or soaking in hot water or in an alkaline solution, to facilitate germination. The olives in the East often receive little attention from the husbandman, the branches being allowed to grow freely and without curtailment by the pruning-knife; water, however, must be supplied in long droughts to ensure a crop; with this neglectful culture the trees bear abundantly only at intervals of three or four years; thus, although wild growth is favourable to the picturesque aspect of the plantation, it is not to be recommended on economic grounds. Where the olive is carefully cultivated, as in Languedoc and Provence, it is planted in rows at regular intervals, the distance between the trees varying in different "olivettes," according to the variety grown. Careful pruning is practised, the object being to preserve the flower-bearing shoots of the preceding year, while keeping the head of the tree low, so as to allow the easy gathering of the fruit; a dome or rounded form is generally the aim of the pruner. The spaces between the trees are occasionally manured with rotten dung or other nitrogenous matter; in France woollen rags are in high esteem for this purpose. Various annual crops are sometimes raised between the rows, and in Calabria wheat even is grown in this way; but the trees are better without any intermediate cropping. Latterly a dwarf variety, very prolific and with green fruit, has come into favour in certain localities, especially in America, where it is said to have produced a crop two or three seasons after planting. The ordinary kinds do not become profitable to the grower until from five to seven years after the cuttings are placed in the olive-ground. Apart from occasional damage by weather or organic foes, the olive crop is somewhat precarious even with the most careful cultivation, and the large untended trees so often seen in Spain and Italy do not yield that certain income to the peasant proprietor that some authors have attributed to them; the crop from these old trees is often enormous, but they seldom bear well two years in succession, and in many instances a luxuriant harvest can only be reckoned upon every sixth or seventh season. The fruit when ripe is, by the careful grower, picked by hand and deposited in cloths or baskets for conveyance to the mill; but in many parts of Spain and Greece, and generally in Asia, the olives are beaten down by poles or by shaking the boughs, or even allowed to drop naturally, often lying on the ground until the convenience of the owner admits of their removal; much of the inferior oil owes its bad quality to the carelessness of the proprietor of the trees. In southern Europe the olive harvest is in the winter months, continuing for several weeks; but the time varies in each country, and also with the season and the kinds cultivated. The amount of oil contained in the fruit differs much in the various sorts; the pericarp usually yields from 60 to 70%. The ancient agriculturists believed that the olive would not succeed if planted more than a few leagues from the sea (Theophrastus gives 300 stadia as the limit), but modern experience does not confirm the idea, and, though showing a preference for the coast, it has long been grown far inland. A calcareous soil, however dry or poor, seems best adapted to its healthy development, though the tree will grow in any light soil, and even on clay if well drained; but, as remarked by Pliny, the plant is more liable to disease on rich soils, and the oil is inferior to the produce of the poorer and more rocky ground the species naturally affects. The olive suffers greatly in some years from the attacks of various enemies. A fungoid growth has at times infested the trees for several A, Shoot of olive (Olea europaea) (from nature), reduced; B, opened flower; C, vertical section of pistil. B and C enlarged.

successive seasons, to the great damage of the plantations. A species of coccus, C. oleae, attaches itself to the shoots, and certain lepidopterous caterpillars feed on the leaves, while the "olive-fly" attacks the fruit. In France the olivettes suffer occasionally from frost; in the early part of the 18th century many trees were cut to the ground by a winter of exceptional severity. Gales and long-continued rains during the gathering season also cause mischief.

The unripe fruit of the olive is largely used in modern as in ancient times as an article of dessert, to enhance the flavour of wine, and to renew the sensitiveness of the palate for other viands. For this purpose the fruit is picked while green, soaked for a few hours in an alkaline ley, washed well in clean water and then placed in bottles or jars filled with brine; the Romans added amurca to the salt to increase the bitter flavour of the olives, and at the present day spices are sometimes used.

The leaves and bark of the tree are employed in the south, as a tonic medicine, in intermittent fever. A resinous matter called "olive gum," or Lucca gum, formed by the exuding juice in hot seasons, was anciently in medical esteem, and in modern Italy is used as a perfume.

In England the olive is not hardy, though in the southern counties it will stand ordinary winters with only the protection of a wall, and will bear fruit in such situations; but the leaves are generally shed in the autumn, and the olives rarely ripen.

The genus Olea includes several other species of some economic importance. 0. paniculata is a larger tree, attaining a height of 50 or 60 ft. in the forests of Queensland, and yielding a hard and tough timber. The yet harder wood of 0. laurifolia, an inhabitant of Natal, is the black ironwood of the South African colonist.

At what remote period of human progress the wild olive passed under the care of the husbandman and became the fruitful garden olive it is impossible to conjecture. The frequent reference in the Bible to the plant and its produce, its implied abundance in the land of Canaan, the important place it has always held in the economy of the inhabitants of Syria, lead us to consider that country the birthplace of the cultivated olive. An improved variety, possessed at first by some small Semitic sept, it was probably slowly distributed to adjacent tribes; and, yielding profusely, with little labour, that oily matter so essential to healthy life in the dry hot climates of the East, the gift of the fruitful tree became in that primitive age a symbol of peace and goodwill among the warlike barbarians. At a later period, with the development of maritime enterprise, the oil was conveyed, as an article of trade, to the neighbouring Pelasgic and Ionian nations, and the plant, doubtless, soon followed.

In the Homeric world, as depicted in the Iliad, olive oil is known only as a luxury of the wealthy - an exotic product, prized chiefly for its value in the heroic toilet; the warriors anoint themselves with it after the bath, and the body of Patroclus is similarly sprinkled; but no mention of the culture of the plant is made, nor does it find any place on the Achillean shield, on which a vineyard is represented. But, although no reference to the cultivation of the olive occurs in the Iliad, the presence of the tree in the garden of Alcinous and other familiar allusions show it to have been known when the Odyssey was written. Whenever the introduction may have taken place, all tradition points to the limestone hills of Attica as the seat of its first cultivation on the Hellenic peninsula. When Poseidon and Athena contended for the future city, an olive sprang from the barren rock at the bidding of the goddess, the patron of those arts that were to bring undying influence to the rising state. That this myth has some relation to the first planting of the olive in Greece seems certain from the remarkable story told by Herodotus of the Epidaurians, who, on their crops failing, applied for counsel to the Delphic oracle, and were enjoined to erect statues to Damia and Auxesia (symbols of fertility) carved from the wood of the true garden olive, then possessed only by the Athenians, who granted their request for a tree on condition of their making an annual sacrifice to Athena, its patron; they thus obeyed the command of the Pythian, and their lands became again fertile. The sacred tree of the goddess long stood on the Acropolis, and, though destroyed in the Persian invasion, sprouted again from the root - some suckers of which were said to have produced those olive trees of the Academy in an after age no less revered. By the time of Solon the olive had so spread that he found it necessary to enact laws to regulate the cultivation of the tree in Attica, from which country it was probably distributed gradually to all the Athenian allies and tributary states. To the Ionian coast, where it abounded in the time of Thales, it may have been in an earlier age brought by Phoenician vessels; some of the Sporades may have received it from the same source; the olives of Rhodes and Crete had perhaps a similar origin. Samos, if we may judge from the epithet of Aeschylus (O?au q.wros), must have had the fruitful plant long before the Persian wars.

It is not unlikely that the valued tree was taken to Magna Graecia by the first Achaean colonists, and the assertion of Pliny (quoted from Fenestella), that no olives existed in Italy in the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, must be received with the caution due to many statements of that industrious compiler. In Latin Italy the cultivation seems to have spread slowly, for it was not until the consulship of Pompey that the production of oil became sufficient to permit of its exportation. In Pliny's time it was already grown abundantly in the two Gallic provinces and in Spain; indeed, in the earlier days of Strabo the Ligurians supplied the Alpine barbarians with oil, in exchange for the wild produce of their mountains; the plant may have been introduced into those districts by Greek settlers in a previous age. Africa was indebted for the olive mainly to Semitic agencies. In Egypt the culture never seems to have made much progress; the oil found in Theban tombs was probably imported from Syria. Along the southern shore of the great inland sea the tree was carried by the Phoenicians, at a remote period, to their numerous colonies in Africa - though the abundant olives of Cyrene, to which allusion is made by Theophrastus, and the glaucous foliage of whose descendants still clothes the rocks of the deserted Cyrenaica, may have been the offspring of Greek plants brought by the first settlers. The tree was most likely introduced into southern Spain, and perhaps into Sardinia and the Balearic Islands, by Phoenician merchants; and, if it be true that old olive trees were found in the Canaries on their rediscovery by medieval navigators, the venerable trees probably owed their origin to the same enterprising pioneers of the ancient world. De Candolle says that the means by which the olive was distributed to the two opposite shores of the Mediterranean are indicated by the names given to the plant by their respective inhabitants - the GreekEXai,a passing into the Latin olea and oliva, that in its turn becoming the ulivo of the modern Italian, the olivo of the Spaniard, and the olive, olivier, of the French, while in Africa and southern Spain the olive retains appellatives derived from the Semitic zait or seit; but the complete subjugation of Barbary by the Saracens sufficiently accounts for the prevalence of Semitic forms in that region; and aceytuno (Arab. zeitun), the Andalusian name of the fruit, locally given to the tree itself, is but a vestige of the Moorish conquest.

Yielding a grateful substitute for the butter and animal fats consumed by the races of the north, the olive, among the southern nations of antiquity, became an emblem not only of peace but of national wealth and domestic plenty; the branches borne in the Panathenaea, the wild olive spray of the Olympic victor, the olive crown of the Roman conqueror at ovation, and those of the equites at their imperial review alike typified gifts of peace that, in a barbarous age, could be secured by victory alone. Among the Greeks the oil was valued as an important article of diet, as well as for its external use. The Roman people employed it largely in food and cookery - the wealthy as an indispensable adjunct to the toilet; and in the luxurious days of the later empire it became a favourite axiom that long and pleasant life depended on two fluids, "wine within and oil without." Pliny vaguely describes fifteen varieties of olive cultivated in his day, that called the "Licinian" being held in most esteem, and the oil obtained from it at Venafrum in Campania the finest known to Roman connoisseurs; the produce of Istria and Baetica was regarded as second only to that of the Italian peninsula. The gourmet of the empire valued the unripe fruit, steeped in brine, as a provocative to the palate, no less than his modern representative; and pickled olives, retaining their characteristic flavour, have been found among the buried stores of Pompeii. The bitter juice or refuse deposited during expression of the oil (called amurca), and the astringent leaves of the tree have many virtues attributed to them by ancient authors. The oil of the bitter wild olive was employed by the Roman physicians in medicine, but does not appear ever to have been used as food or in the culinary art.

In modern times the olive has been spread widely over the world; and, though the Mediterranean lands that were its ancient home still yield the chief supply of the oil, the tree is now cultivated successfully in many regions unknown to its early distributors. Soon after the discovery of the American continent it was conveyed thither by the Spanish settlers. In Chile it flourishes as luxuriantly as in its native land, the trunk sometimes becoming of large girth, while oil of fair quality is yielded by the fruit. To Peru it was carried at a later date, but has not there been equally successful. Introduced into Mexico by the Jesuit missionaries of the i 7th century, it was planted by similar agency in Upper California, where it has prospered latterly under the more careful management of the Anglo-Saxon conqueror. Its cultivation has also been attempted in the south-eastern states, especially in S. Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. In the eastern hemisphere the olive has been established in many inland districts which would have been anciently considered ill-adapted for its culture. To Armenia and Persia it was known at a comparatively early period of history, and many olive-yards now exist in Upper Egypt. The tree has been introduced into Chinese agriculture, and has become an important addition to the resources of the Australian planter. In Queensland the olive has found a climate specially suited to its wants; in South Australia, near Adelaide, it also grows vigorously; and there are probably few coast districts of the vast island-continent where the tree would not flourish. It has likewise been successfully introduced into some parts of Cape Colony.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also olive




Medieval form of the Latin saint's name Oliva "olive"; revived in the 19th century when flower and plant names became fashionable.

Proper noun




  1. A female given name.

Related terms


  • 1842 Alfred Tennyson: The Talking Oak:
    And hear me swear a solemn oath,
    That only by thy side
    Will I to Olive plight my troth,
    And gain her for my bride.


  • Anagrams of eilov
  • voile


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


Olive f. (genitive Olive, plural Oliven)

  1. olive (fruit)


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Edgar William Olive article)

From Wikispecies

Edgar William Olive   (1870 - 1971)   (Olive)

American botanist
Head of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Published author of the fungi:

Cystobasidium proliferans Olive, 1952
Ramularia sidae Olive, 1948

External link

THE NEWYORK TIMES, Published September 13, 1912 [1]
Head for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens
    Dr. Edgar William Olive, formerly instructor in botany in Harvard University, took charge yesterday of the Botanical Gardens of the Brooklyn Institute. The gardens are a new feature in the institute's work, having been started only a year ago. Dr. Olive was invited in June to become curator, and since then has been investigating gardens in other cities.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

the fruit of the olive-tree. This tree yielded oil which was highly valued. The best oil was from olives that were plucked before being fully ripe, and then beaten or squeezed (Deut 24:20; Isa 17:6; 24:13). It was called "beaten," or "fresh oil" (Ex 27:20). There were also oil-presses, in which the oil was trodden out by the feet (Mic 6:15). James (3:12) calls the fruit "olive berries." The phrase "vineyards and olives" (Jdg 15:5, A.V.) should be simply "olive-yard," or "olive-garden," as in the Revised Version. (See OIL.)

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

This article needs to be merged with OLIVE (Jewish Encyclopedia).

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