Assigned plant Species: Olea europaea

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Olea europaea, usually referred to as the olive, is a small endless green tree that is mostly found in the Mediterranean. However, the plant can also be cultivated in places such as California and Argentina where the climate is favorable. At maturity, the plant grows to an average height of 15m. The olive tree has leaves that are spear-like in shape, oily green on top and grayish green on the bottom. In perfect conditions, the olive tree bears fruit in a span of 5 years. Due to a huge distinction in the three reference database- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA Anonymous 2017a)1, National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI Anonymous 2017 b)2, and integrated Taxonomy Information System. (ITIS Anonymous 2017c)3- Table 1 will illustrate each of the reference’s classification results.
Table 1: Linnaean Classification of Olea europaea
Taxon USDA (Anonymous 2017a) NCBI (Anonymous 2017b) ITIS (Anonymous 2017c)
Superkingdom Eukaryota
Kingdom Plantae Viridiplantae Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheobinta Viridiplantae
Infrakingdom Streptophyta
Superdivision Spermatophyta Embryophyta
Division Magnoliophyta Tracheophyta
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank
Non- Linnaean Rank Streptophyta
Subdivision Spermatophytina
Class Magnoliopsida Magnoliopsida
Non- Linnaean Rank Asteridae Asterids
Superorder Asteranae
Order Scrophulariales Lamiales Lamiales
Family Oleaceae Oleceae Oleaceae
Genus Olea L. Oleeae Olea L.
Species Olea europaea L. Olea Olea europaea L.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat

Figure 1: Geographical range map of Olea europaea in California
Olives are not native to the Americas and were brought to the New World by Spanish colonists. The olive tree was established in California by Spanish missionaries in the 18th Century. The first cultivation of an olive tree in California was at Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1979. California actually produces over 95% of the olives grown in the United States (California Olive Committee Anonymous 2017d)4. Olive trees thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10 and prefer winters that are frost- free. Temperatures below 12 degrees Fahrenheit will kill a tree to the ground. However, a mature tree can grow back from below the ground. Olive trees grow best in full sun. The growth period of olive trees begins when daytime temperatures reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit i.e. late winter or early spring. To bloom, olive trees need a 10-to- 15-week period with nighttime temperatures between 35 and 50 F (Evans, 2014)5.
Soil Type
O. europaea does well in California where mollisols and entisols are the predominant soil types. However, despite the availability of the soil types in other parts of the country, O. europaea doesn’t grow well in other parts. The soil must be well- drained and with a pH of 5.5 and 8.5. Since O. europaea is moderately salt- tolerant, the trees can also grow on coastal soils. Since olive trees have fairly shallow root systems, they do not need a deep soil- 3 to 4- feet deep is alright as long as it is well-drained. It is also important to note that since the plant readily absorbs nutrients from most soils, it usually needs only 0.5 to 2 pounds of nitrogen to fertilize them in spring (Evans, 2014)5.
Life Span and Mode of Reproduction
Olea europaea is a perennial dicot with evergreen foliage and spreading growth habit. (USDA Anonymous 2017a)1. The olive fruit develops from the fertilized ovary of the olive flower. As such, fruit production is dependent upon flower formation and fertilization. Flowers in the olive tree are born on inflorescences which differentiate from axillary buds formed over the previous year along with the new shoot and leaf growth. Environmental limitations such as water availability and extreme temperatures can affect reproduction of the olive tree by seed (Rapoport, 2014)6. Reproduction of the olive tree by seed takes long and even after seven years in a tree nursery, the plant can suffer shock from being transplanted. A grown olive tree must be grafted failure to which it will remain a wild tree and produce a poor small fruit. An alternative mode of reproduction is by propagation from cuttings. Cutting- propagated olive trees mature faster and more closely resemble the parent tree in terms of size, growth habitat, and fruit production.
Endangerment/ Economic Importance
The common olive i.e. Olea europaea is classified as Least Concern due to its proliferation in the Mediterranean and in other parts of the world. However, Olea europaea subsp. cerasiformis is classified as a near threatened plant by the IUCN Red List (IUCN Anonymous e)7.
Olea europaea is an economically economic plant since it produces olives that can not only produce olive oil but also be used for curing and snacking. Olive trees are mainly grown for the production of olive oil. According to the USDA, the olive plant can be weedy or invasive. This is based on an authoritative report by the California Invasive Plant Council (USDA Anonymous 2017a)1.

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References in order of citation
1 Anonymous. 2017a. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. [Internet]. Olea europaea L. [last updated: unknown, accessed 7-2-2017]. Available from:
2 Anonymous. 2017b. NCBI, National Center for Biotechnology Information. [Internet]. Olea europaea. [last updated: unknown, accessed 7-2-2017]. Available from:
3 Anonymous. 2017c. IT IS, Integrated Taxonomic Information System. [Internet]. Olea europaea L. [last updated:2017, accessed 7-2-2017]. Available from:
4 Anonymous. 2017d. California Olive Committee. [Internet]. About the Olive Industry. [last updated: 2016, accessed 7-2-2017]. Available from:
5 Evans J. 2014. [Internet]. What Type of Environment Do Olive Trees Thrive in? [last updated: 2014, accessed 7-2-2017]. Available from:
6 Rapoport HF. 2014. The reproductive biology of the olive tree and its relationship to extreme environmental conditions. Acta Horticulturae 1057(1057): 41- 50

August 09, 2021

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