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Olea europaea (olive)

Kew's Herbarium contains a wreath of folded olive leaves which was found in the sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun and is over 3,300 years old.
Fruits of Olea europaea

Fruits of Olea europaea

Species information

Scientific name: 

Olea europaea L.

Common name: 

olive

Conservation status: 

Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN criteria.

Habitat: 

Seasonally dry Mediterranean habitats, or bushland vegetation in the tropics.

Key Uses: 

Edible fruits, edible oil, fuel, attractive wood, soil erosion control, ornamental.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: 
Plants
Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Lamiales
Family: 
Oleaceae
Genus: Olea

About this species

Olive trees (Olea europaea) have long represented wealth, abundance, power and peace. The olive has been a symbol of the Mediterranean since time immemorial and has a reputation for long life, nourishment and its ability to thrive in tough conditions.

Its primary product, olive oil, is revered throughout the world for its distinctive flavour. Homer called it 'liquid gold'. In ancient Greece athletes rubbed olive oil over their bodies and victorious competitors received no trophies or medals - instead the symbol of supreme honour was the olive wreath placed on their heads.

There are claims of 1,600 year-old trees still producing fruit.

Genus: 
Olea

main info

Courses at Kew

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Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

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