The Olive, or Olea europaea, is a small tree in the family Oleaceae, and is native to the eastern Mediterranean, western Asia and northern Africa. Its claim to fame, of course, is the fruit which is of major agricultural importance today as well as being a mainstay crop in the most ancient societies of the Mediterranean and figures prominently in legend and myth. And the fruit is also the source of olive oil, a key ingredient to Mediterranean cooking and economics. The tree and its fruit give its name to the plant family, Olea, which also includes lilac, jasmine, forsythia and ash trees, Fraxinus.

But economics and legend aside, an Olive tree is also a beautiful, slow-growing ornamental. It has a rounded head which gives the tree a polished look and will eventually reach 10 metres (rarely 15) with a spread of 10 metres, or about 40 feet at maturity.The silvery-grey leaves are handsome and give a fine texture to the tree and, being evergreen, also allows an Olive tree to serve as a screen or wind-break. The creamy-white flowers, which are produced in summer are small, but attractive, and are followed by round green fruit that ripen to black. These fruit have not only been a food-source to man since time began but have also been a blessing to wild-life. Olive trees also grow to phenomenal ages, some have even been verified in excess of 2000 years, definitely qualifying it as a Heritage choice that generations will admire.

Olive trees like warm weather and are hardy only to 14 °F, or −10 °C. In the US and UK they would require a warm, sheltered position to thrive. But fortunately, they do well in pot culture and can be moved indoors when temperatures plummet. They are not fussy about soil-type, and in fact, seem to do better in poor soils than rich ones. But the soil must be well-drained with light and sandy soils being optimal. It should also be planted in full sun. Grown out of doors they do particularly well in Mediterranean climates such as California and southwestern Australia.

Olive tree


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