Ajuntament de Barcelona

Olea Europeea

Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer Garden

    Catalan name: 
    Spanish name: 
    English name: 
    Olive tree

    According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of this plant is least concern.

    Species characteristics
    Mediterranean area
    Warm and dry areas of temperate climate

    Perennial tree 4-8 m tall, although it can reach 15 m, with thick and tortuous, often very short, trunk and wide crown. The bark, grey or silver coloured, is rough.

    The leathery leaves, 2-9 cm long, are opposite and entire. Their shape varies from elliptical to lanceolate with a slightly pointed apex. The upper side is greyish-green dark and the lower side is lighter and very flaky.

    The white fragrant flower appear into axillary panicles that are composed of 10-40 flowers and shorter than the leaves.

    The fruit is a succulent and very oily ovoid or slightly globose drupe, 1-3.5 cm long, with a single seed. The drupe´s colour varies from green to purplish black when completely ripe (about a year after it appears).

    Flowering time: 
    Fruiting time: 
    Uses and properties: 

    Olive Tree is a basic one in the Mediterranean Culture and all parts are used. The bark is used in furniture and construction and the roots are used to make tools.

    Fruits are very appreciated for human food, either seasoned or as an ingredient or to obtain olive oil by press. Both olive and olive oil are a base of the Mediterranean Diet.

    Olive oil is a first class ingredient in cuisine used in all kind of dishes, from salads to deserts. It brings basic elements to the human body that help to absorve some of the vitamins, hence why olive oil consumption is very appreciated in healthy diets. The many beneficial properties of the leave and the fruit have many uses in pharmacy.

    It's widely used in gardening because of the beauty of its trunk when adult, the colour of the leaves and its resilience to drought.

    History and curiosities: 

    The scientific name, Olea europaea, consists of the genus name Olea, from the Latin olea, “olive tree”, and the Latin term europaea, “European”, in allusion to the plant’s origin place.

    The cultivated olive tree appeared in the Mediterranean area some centuries later than the wild olive tree cultivation was started in Middle East, about 7,000 years ago. In Crete, as early as 3000 BD, olive trees were cultivated for commercial purposes and it is possible that this cultivation was the source of the Minoan civilization wealthy. After spread across the Mediterranean Sea and the rest of Europe, the olive tree was brought by the Europeans to America (mainly to California, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Argentina) in the 16th c. and small olive tree groves are found in China, Japan and Nepal. It is estimated that nowadays there are about 800 millions of olive trees all over the world.

    The olive tree has been and is a very important plant in the different cultures from the Mediterranean area. In Ancient Greece, for instance, the olive oil was considered holy (according the mythology, the olive tree was a gift from Athena to Attican people) and was used to anoint kings and athletes and the olive tree branches, both the cultivated one and the wild one, were an abundance, glory and peace symbol, so they were used to crown friendly game winners or war winners. And in Egypt, the olive tree branches were considered a bless and purification symbol. Thus, it is not surprising the presence of the olive tree in literature, both the Greek one (in Odyssey, for instance, Ulysses drags under two olive tree shoots) and the Hebrew one (in the Bible, with Old and New Testament, it is mentioned thirty times) or the Arabic one (it is mentioned in the Koran).

    The olive tree, a very long-lived tree that can go beyond 1,500 years old, is also associated with the peace (at the NU flag, the crown made of olive tree branches around the Earth symbolises Universal Peace).

    For further information: 

    LÓPEZ GONZÁLEZ, Ginés A. Los árboles y arbustos de la Península Ibérica e Islas Baleares. (2 vol.) Madrid: Mundi-Prensa, 2001

    THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY. Enciclopedia de plantas y flores. Barcelona: Grijalbo, 1996