Scientific Classification:

Kingdom Plantae
Unranked Angiosperms
Unranked Eudicots
Order Lamiales
Family Oleaceae
Genus Olea
Species O. europaea
Binomial name Olea europaea

Other Common Names:

The other common names for the olive tree are Wild olive, Olienhout, Mohlware, Mutlhwari and Motlhware.


The olive tree belongs to the generation of Oleaster olea sylvestris, which grows wild in North Africa, Portugal, Southern France, Italy and areas around the Black and Caspian Seas.

This oldest known tree in history is was first cultivated in in Africa, and then spread to Morocco, Algiers, and Tunisia by the Phoenicians which later spread to Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries.Apart from its medicinal and commercial applications it also plays an important role in religion, diet, and art.Homer in the "Odyssey" refers to olive oil as "liquid gold".


Olives are large trees with massive trunks but in some parts of Europe they are also described as tall and cylindrical trees. Most trees have round, spreading crowns, but tall, cylindrical trees are grown in some parts of Europe. Leaves are small (1.5" long, 1/4-1/2" wide), linear, with entire margins and acute tips, silver-green in colour, and fairly thick. Leaf arrangement is opposite.

Leaves live about 2 years. Small, off-white flowers are borne in racemose panicles of 15-30 flowers in axils of 1-yr-old wood. Most flowers are staminate by pistil abortion, leaving only 1-2 perfect flowers per inflorescence, which may set fruit. The ovary is superior, and there are 4 sepals and petals, and 2 stamens. Flowering occurs rather late relative to other tree crops. The fruit type is a drupe. Fruit are oblong with smooth, waxy surfaces.The olives are supposed to show different shades of colour in its phase of life where the colour is green when immature, turning yellow-green in autumn, with red,purple, or black coloration at full maturity. Olives require 6-8 months for full maturation.


They thrive best in the Mediterranean area and other places with Mediterranean climates, such as Texas, Arizona, and California. It is widespread in Africa, Mascarene Islands, Arabia and India to China.


Olive trees can grow in nutrient-poor, but well-drained soils. It needs full sun for fruit production, but also needs a slight winter chill for the fruit to set. Olives prefer a well-drained soil, lots of sun and a long growing season. Mature trees can tolerate cold to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Olives are tolerant of salty winds and grow well in coastal communities. It is generally found in woods and scrub in dry rocky places.


Sowing of olive tree can be done at any part of the year,provided after sowing it needs light for germination.Once sowing is done in a moist seed compost and covered with a layer of compost or vermiculite,it should be maintained at a temperature of around 18-21C.Care should be taken to prevent waterlogging.Germination will usually take 1-4 months.When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 3inches pots of good, soil-less compost. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer and give them some protection from winter cold for at least their first winter outdoors Water moderately and provide a temperature of 7-15C (45-60F) throughout the winter.Olives are traditionally hand harvested a process that is not only tedious and laborious, but represents the major proportion of the costs of production. Hand harvest is accomplished by three techniques: 1) collection of fallen fruit from the ground, 2) "milking", or the stripping of fruit with half open hands from limbs which falls into picking bags or onto nets below the tree, 3) beating limbs with large sticks to dislodge fruit, which is also collected on nets.

Flowering Season

The olive bears flowers that are greenish white in colour and blossom in bunch during August to September.

Pests and Diseases

Cycloconium oleaginum fungus, can infect the trees causing great damage to plantations. A species of bacterium, Pseudomonas savastanoi pv. oleae, 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. The curculio beetle eats the edges of leaves, leaving sawtooth damage.

Parts Used


The oil of the fruit, leaves and the bark are the most commonly used parts of the olive tree for its commercial and medicinal purposes.

Medicinal Applications


• The oil extracted from the olive tree is rich in nutrients and also helps to develop the equilibrium of fats in the body.

• Traditional remedies prepared from this plant serve as eye lotions and tonics, lower blood pressure, improve kidney function and deal with sore throats.

• It is also used in treating diarrhoea.

• The olive leaves are known to reduce blood pressure and also aid in enhancing the activity of the blood circulatory system.

• Olive leaf poultices have been applied to the skin to treat dermatological conditions, such as boils, rashes, and warts.

• Oleuropein in olive leaf and in olives may prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing into a form that can form atherosclerotic plaques.

• They are used to cure conditions like cystitis or inflammation of the bladder.

• It is used in the treatment of malaria.

• Olive leaf is employed in the treatment of diabetes.

Commercial Applications


• It is prized for carving and for trim-work on premium furniture and cabinetry.

• The oil is a good hair tonic and dandruff treatment.

• It is popular for bonsai, street planting, and for use at schools, office complexes, and in parks.

• The non-drying oil obtained from the seed is also used for soap making, lighting and as a lubricant.

• An ink is made from the juice of the fruit.

• Different colours of dye are obtained from the ripe fruit.


According to the astro reports the olive tree is under the dominion of the Saturn planet.


It is also known as the symbol for peace, wisdom and victory.

Cultural and Religious Significance

The olive tree was the sacred tree of goddess Athena and Athens, the capital of Greece, took its name from the goddess. Zeus had decreed that the city should be given to the god who offered the most useful gift to the people. Poseidon gave them the horse. Athena struck the bare soil with her spear and caused an olive tree to spring up. The people were so delighted with the olive that Zeus gave the city to Athena and named it after her. Athena is often shown with an olive branch, a symbol of peace and plenty. At the Ancient Olympic Games, winners were presented with a simple olive tree branch which was cut with a gold-handled knife from a wild olive tree. The Greeks believed that the vitality of the sacred tree was transmitted to the recipient through the branch. The Christians continued the ancient custom of using oil in the burial ceremony.

Folklores and Myths

For bravery in battle, Roman soldiers were rewarded with crowns of olive. Greek Orthodox rituals such as christenings & blessings use olive oil. Olives are some of the longest lived trees in the world. It is believed that goddess Athena, in her great wisdom, devised to give the citizens of Greece something that would not only amaze them, but would become something they could not live without. And, with a flick of her wrist she created the Olive Tree. The citizens were so amazed at its sweet fruit and majestic branches that they at once fell at the goddess feet and pledged their loyalty to her.This shows Athena's great importance to both Athens and Greek citizens in general. She gave them the gift of the olive tree, which is used in everyday rituals as well as religious observances.