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what does olive tree look like cover

What Does Olive Tree Look Like? Description with Pictures & Video

Olive trees have a scientific name as Olea europaea because of the fact they are native to Europe, in particular the Mediterranean coast. Also, the olive tree has a long history and according to archaeological evidence, these hardy trees have been cultivated by humans for more than 6000 years, producing amazing olive fruits, nutritious oil, useful wood, and healing medicine.

What Does Olive Tree Look Like?

The olive tree is a slow-growing evergreen tree with a short trunk, vast crown, numerous branches, and oblong, silvery-green leaves up to 4 inches (10 cm) long.

The height of this beautiful olive tree may reach 40 feet (12 meters) and more, but most grow to about 25 feet (7.5 meters) in ultimate heights. There are also dwarf olive tree cultivars that never get taller than 10 feet (3 meters).

olive tree symbolizes longevity
Native to the Mediterranean region olive tree is prized for its twisted trunk, silvery foliage and spreading crown

The trunk of olive trees often becomes knotted and twisted into interesting shapes as the tree ages.  Furthermore, olive trees are extremely resilient and can live for a surprisingly long time with the oldest living specimens being thousands of years old in Crete and still producing edible olive fruit every spring.

olive tree planted and growing in container
The ultimate height of an olive tree is also formed by the quality of soil, location, and watering methods. They also can grow in pots or containers

Olive Tree Cultivars

More than 800 different kinds of olive tree varieties have been identified. Many have unique characteristics. Leaf shape, growth habit, and fruit characteristics can help you identify an olive tree.

Olive Tree CultivarCharacteristics
ArbequinaSmall fruits, self-fertile, common tree to grow in pots
KoroneikiSmall juicy fruit almond shape, common to grow for olive oil
MissionSmall fruits with the lowest flesh-to-pit ratio, the greatest cold resistance olive tree
Manzanillalarge fruit, known as large drupe or stone fruit, self-fertile
Table 1: different olive trees cultivars examples

Olive Trunk

Young olive trees often have a single straight trunk, which also can be divided trunk. As the olive tree ages, the trunk may become gnarled and twisted, a condition that can be helped along with judicious pruning or training.

The bark is smooth in young olive trees and of a light grey color, but becomes fissured, rough, dark grey, full of bumps and cracks as the tree age.

300 year old olive tree in Greece
The older tree gets, the more twisted and cracked trunk it has

Also, olive wood is resistant to decay. If the tree is cut back, a new trunk will often arise from the roots.

Olive Leaves

Olive leaves are lanced-shaped with complete edges up to about 4 inches (10 cm) in length and up to 1.1 (3 cm) in width. They are leathery, oblong, and are paired opposite each other on the twig. Attached by a small stalk.

Olive leaves have a dark green color above and silvery on the underside. Because of that they create a silver tree image when its sunny.

olive tree leaves uses
Olive tree has a beautiful silvery foliage: with dark green on top and silver green underside

Further more, olive tree leaves can be used not only for decoration but for making a delicious tea. Read more about olive tree leaves uses and benefits.

Olive Flowers

As temperatures warm and daylight hours lengthen in spring, olive trees burst out in buds growing from the axils of leaves on the previous year’s wood. Then these buds turn into racemes where petite olive flowers appear.

Olive tree flowers are small, have four white petals, and a strong fragrance. They have a feather-like appearance with ten-cleft calyx and corolla and 2 stamens.

olive tree flowering in may
Very small, white flowers appear in axillary racemes in spring

Olive Fruit

Olive tree fruits are small olives in a range of 0.5 to 1.4 inches (1.5 to 3.5 cm) in length depending on the olive cultivar. Olive has a small pit inside and seed within it. They are great not only for olive oil but as a snack or ingredient.

All olives start out green, then slowly turn yellow-green and eventually turn dark brown, purple, or black color. In general, olives for eating are harvested in fall, and olives harvested for olive oil are left to ripen fully on the tree until winter before olive harvest.

harvest potted olive trees when fruits are ripen
Olive fruit comes in many shapes and sized depending on olive cultivar and the degree of ripeness

Olive Tree Shapes

If left unpruned, most olive trees will produce lots of suckers and small, flexible branches.

This characteristic is one of the things that makes them valuable bonsai specimens, as they can be trained into interesting shapes including topiary.

In the garden, olive trees can also be trained and pruned for looks rather than fruit production.

olive tree bonsai
You can shape and style your olive tree in various forms especially if it grows in a pot

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Conclusion

Olive trees thrive in spring and start producing new buds and flowers. During summer and autumn, the olive fruits grow and change the color from green to dark purple or black.

Depending on the use, olives are begin to be harvested in autumn or early winter in order to produce amazing olive oil or to brine olives for snacking.

how do olives grow
Read more about how do olives grow

Read Next

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