Olive

The olive (i/l?v/ or i/?l?v/, Olea europaea, meaning "Oil from/of Europe") is a species of small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iraq, and northern Iran at the south of the Caspian Sea. Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the Mediterranean region as the source of olive oil. The tree and its fruit give its name to the plant family, which also includes species such as lilacs, jasmine, Forsythia and the true ash trees (Fraxinus). The word derives from Latin oliva which is cognate with the Greek ? (elaia)[1][2] ultimately from Mycenaean Greek e-ra-wa ("elaiva"), attested in Linear B syllabic script.[3][4] The word "oil" in multiple languages ultimately derives from the name of this tree and its fruit. The olive tree, Olea europaea, is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia and Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 815 metres (2649 ft) in height. However, the Pisciottana, a unique variety comprising 40,000 trees found only in the area around Pisciotta in the Campania region of southern Italy often exceeds 815 metres (2649 ft) with correspondingly large trunk diameters. The silvery green leaves are oblong, measuring 410 centimetres (1.63.9 in) long and 13 centimetres (0.391.2 in) wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted. The small white, feathery flowers, with ten-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the previous year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves. The fruit is a small drupe 12.5 centimetres (0.390.98 in) long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage. Canned black olives may contain chemicals (usually ferrous sulfate) that turn them black artificially. Olea europaea contains a seed commonly referred to in American English as a pit or a rock, and in British English as a stone. The place, time and immediate ancestry of the cultivated olive are unknown. It is assumed that Olea europaea may have arisen from O. chrysophylla in northern tropical Africa and that it was introduced into the countries of the Mediterranean Basin via Egypt and then Crete or P lestine, Syria and Asia Minor. Fossil Olea pollen has been found in Macedonia, Greece, and other places around Mediterranean, indicating that this genus is an original element of the Mediterranean flora. Fossilized leaves of Olea were found in the palaeosols of the volcanic Greek island of Santorini (Thera) and were dated about 37,000 Before Present (BP). Imprints of larvae of olive whitefly Aleurolobus (Aleurodes) olivinus were found on the leaves. The same insect is commonly found today on olive leaves, showing that the plant-animal co-evolutionary relations have not changed since that time. The olive is one of the plants most often cited in western literature. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus crawls beneath two shoots of olive that grow from a single stock,[6] and in the Iliad, (XVII.53ff) is a metaphoric description of a lone olive tree in the mountains, by a spring; the Greeks observed that the olive rarely thrives at a distance from the sea, which in Greece invariably means up mountain slopes. Greek myth attributed to the primordial culture-hero Aristaeus the understanding of olive husbandry, along with cheese-making and bee-keeping.[7] Olive was one of the woods used to fashion the most primitive Greek cult figures, called xoana, referring to their wooden material; they were reverently preserved for centuries.[8] It was purely a matter of local pride that the Athenians claimed that the olive grew first in Athens.[9] In an archaic Athenian foundation myth, Athena won the patronship of Attica from Poseidon with the gift of the olive. Though, according to the 4th-century BC father of botany, Theophrastus, olive trees ordinarily attained an age of about 200 years,[10] he mentions that the very olive tree of Athena still grew on the Acropolis; it was still to be seen there in the 2nd century AD;[11] and when Pausanias was shown it, ca 170 AD, he reported "Legend also says that when the Persians fired Athens the olive was burnt down, but on the very day it was burnt it grew again to the height of two cubits."[12] Indeed, olive suckers sprout readily from the stump, and the great age of some existing olive trees shows that it was perfectly possible that the olive tree of the Acropolis dated to the Bronze Age. The olive was sacred to Athena and appeared on the Athenian coinage.