Suzanne Longley Farm

When you plant an olive tree, you’re cultivating ancient history. The olive tree has been an essential part of Western civilization from its beginnings. Photo by Don Glentzer.


European Olive

Olea europaea arbaquina

A beautiful ornamental tree, the olive tree is often called the “tree of light,” perhaps because of the way its feather-shaped leaves dazzle and flutter in the wind. The evergreen leaf is soft-gray green on the surface and silvery underneath. The tree typically grows 10 to 20 feet. As the branches and trunk become gnarled, the character of the tree emerges with age. An olive tree can live for centuries.

Often overlooked for landscapes, this beautiful olive tree is cold hardy down to the low teens and is extremely drought and heat tolerant with few disease or pest problems. It tolerates a wide range of soils, although the soil should be well drained. The olive tree should be grown in full sun.

The olive tree has been a part of Western civilization from its early beginnings and a universal symbol of peace, wisdom, prosperity, fertility, and power. Seeds found in Spain were determined to be 8,000 years old according to carbon-dating. Archeological evidence suggests olives were grown in Crete in 2,500 B.C., then spread to Greece, Rome, and other parts of the Mediterranean. In the Bible, it was the olive branch that the dove brought back to Noah when the flood ended. The Quran mentions the olive seven times. In Greek mythology, Athena gave the olive to mankind. On the great seal of the United States of America, the eagle is turning to the olive branches held in its talons.