Olive tree

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Olive
Olea europaea, Dead Sea, Jordan
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Lamiales
Family: Oleaceae
Genus: Olea
Species: O. europaea
Binomial name
Olea europaea
L.
Olive trees near Karystos in Greece
An olive tree
The fruit of the olive tree are called olives.
Marinated olives on a market in Toulon, France

The olive tree is a small tree. Its scientific name is Olea europaea. A long time ago, it came from the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean, from Syria and the maritime (next to the sea) parts of Asia Minor and northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea. It has been farmed for a very long time. The Ancient Greeks were farming it. They spread the trees to the western part of the Mediterranean.

Olive trees like soil with lots of chalk in it. They grow best on limestone slopes and crags in coastal climate.

Description of the tree[change | change source]

The Wild Olive is a small tree or shrub that grows up to 8–15 m tall with thorny branches. The leaves are opposite, 4–10 cm long and 1–3 cm wide. The leaves have a dark greyish-green color above and are pale with whitish scales below. The small white flowers, with calyx and corolla divided into four parts, two stamens and bifid stigma, are mostly on the last year's wood, in racemes coming up from the axils of the leaves. The fruit is a small drupe 1–2 cm long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars.

Uses of olives[change | change source]

Today, olive trees are grown for the following reasons:

  1. The fruit of the tree is used:
    • For cooking. Directly from the tree the olive does not taste very good (it tastes very bitter). It is put into some liquid that makes it less bitter. When this is done, it can be used in many recipes of Mediterranean cooking.
    • To make olive oil. This is a very important vegetable oil.
  2. The wood of the tree is very hard. It is used to make furniture or articles of everyday use.
  3. The leaves of the tree have some medical uses. It is said that the leaves have a calming effect. They are good for people going to sleep. They are also good for the immune system and to bring down high levels of cholesterol. The oil is good for the cardiovascular system (the heart, and the arteries, etc.) and the circulation of fat in the body.

The numbers behind[change | change source]

In total, about 17.3 million tons of olives are produced every year. 60% of all olive trees are in the European Union. The top producers are:

  1. Spain
  2. Italy
  3. Turkey
  4. Greece
  5. Syria
  6. Morocco
  7. Tunisia
  8. Egypt
  9. Portugal
  10. Lebanon
  11. Algeria
  12. Libya
  13. Argentina
  14. Jordan
  15. US
  16. Iran
  17. Peru
  18. Croatia
  19. Albania

Cultural significance[change | change source]

Flag of the United Nations

Very probably, the first olive trees were grown in Syria.[source?] From there they spread rapidly. In Ancient Greece, the tree was considered to be holy. Some city states (polis) like Athens punished people for cutting down olive trees.

The branches in the flag of the United Nations are those of an olive tree.

In Christianity, the olive tree can be a sign of peace, because according to the Bible, a dove brought an olive branch to Noah to show that the flood was over.

Other websites[change | change source]