From the writings of the Bible to the ancient Greek philosophers, the olive tree is regarded as a symbol of peace and prosperity. Considered sacred to some and useful to many, olive trees provide shade, wood ,oil and food. Cultivated the world over, olive trees are an attractive addition to gardens and properties.
The olive tree, Olea europaea, is native to the Mediterranean and parts of Asia and Africa. An evergreen tree, it grows to heights of 25 to 50 feet. Olive trees possess oblong, almost triangulate leaves in a silvery green color that are thick and leathery to the touch. The trunk, though sturdy, grows in a gnarled, twisted shape. The gray bark of the olive tree is bumpy to the touch.
Olive trees have been used for several millennia for their fruit bearing capabilities, according to Dr. George C. Martin of the University of California. The trunks are resistant to decay, and the trees are able to regenerate a great deal when damaged by natural or man-made means. Olive trees are also incredibly fire resistant. Even if the visible portion of the tree is damaged beyond repair, the extensive root system is able to aid in the regeneration of the tree. Olive trees are easily transplanted.
Olive tree flowers form in March, according to Dr. George C. Martin. This time frame varies only slightly by location, with flowers forming throughout the springtime months in different locales. Approximately six weeks after the flowers bloom, usually around early-mid July, the fruits known as olives form. A particularly long or cold winter may delay the blooming of flowers and production of fruits up to a month.
Olive trees are hardy to USDA zone 8 and down to temperatures of 15 degrees Fahrenheit according to the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension. These landscape trees require an arid or dry environment and need to be watered only once or twice a week in the summer and not at all in the winter. Olive trees grow best with exposure to full sun and deep, slightly alkaline soil.
If grown for their fruits, olive trees are considered high maintenance. In addition to producing fruits, the olive tree is known to produce an abundance of allergenic pollen, and it is for this reason it is outlawed in certain areas, such as Tucson, Arizona, according to the University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension. Flowers that are damaged before bearing fruit may drop and cause a mess to the areas surrounding the olive tree. Fruits, too, may drop, the juices of which have significant staining properties. Olive trees produce basal suckers, which should be pruned on a regular basis to ensure the health of the overall tree.