Spurred by our recent outing to collect the olives growing in our neighborhood – What to Do With Fresh Olives? – we took a few minutes to sit down and sketch a small branch we had brought back with us for this exact purpose. Sadly but not surprising, the Handbook of Nature Study and other local field guides we have in our library do not mention the olive as it is not native and is grown here (typically) for agricultural purposes. It would be interesting to learn why they were planted in our neighborhood – was it simply for ornamental purposes?
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 8–15 metres (26–49 ft) in height. The silvery green leaves are oblong, measuring 4–10 centimetres (1.6–3.9 in) long and 1–3 centimetres (0.39–1.2 in) wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted. The fruit is a small oval shape measuring 0.40–1.0 inches in length. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage. Canned black olives may contain chemicals 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.