Some people love them, some people hate them, but there is one thing for certain the olive plant (Olea europaea) is certainly a good looking plant.
It naturally grows in calcium rich soils in regions with hot weather, and its native range is from the Mediterranean regions through to China
They are typically small to medium sized trees. Their leaves are leathery, narrow, simple, and opposite.
photograph by N i c o l a, CC.
photograph by Forest and Kim Starr; CC.
Although their flowers are small and carried on panicles it is the olive fruit for which this plant is mainly grown (though their are many uses for the leaves too, which are often used for flavouring culinary dishes and are a rich source of phenolics. Indeed the leaves have been used in many traditional medicines.
Trunks are irregularly shaped and a very attractive grey. The wood from the olive tree is also treasured as it is hard, durable, and very difficult to burn. However, the trees are very slow growing and live for a very long time (some over 2000 years old) thus the repeated harvests of the olive fruits are the most economical viable. This can make it quite difficult top get hold of unless you are prepared to pay a premium price over quicker growing woods.
Fruits are rich in oil, and it is estimated that about 90% of all oils are processed into olive oil.
There are three main types of eating (table) olives: Green; Black; and Semi-ripe/turning. Green olives are picked before ripening occurs whilst black ones are harvested once the olive fruit is fully mature and at maximum ripeness. All olives are then cured by fermentation to remove their bitterness.
Many people will know the symbolism of offering an olive branch to someone as a way of ending a disagreement; and the olive tree is strongly associated with peace.
Invasive species in South Australia, where its growth contributes to fire risks
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