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Wild olive tree (Olea europea var. sylvestris)

Diputación de Málaga

Wild olive tree (Olea europea var. sylvestris)

IDENTIFICATION

The wild olive tree is a bush or a small tree (up to 10 m high) commonly with thorny branches.  The bark is greyish brown and smooth. The leaves are tough but flexible. They are evergreen, simple and set in opposite ways, linked by a small petiole joining them to the branch. The leaf blade is full, with an elongated aspect, oval and with a smooth edge. The beam is dark brown and the underside is covered by hairs, giving it a whitish look and colour. The flowers appear grouped in structures called panicles (clusters that laterally branch with a spike shape) and grow axillary (at the same point of attachment) to the leaves. They are of a yellowish whitish colour with four lobes. The androceo (a set of male reproductive organs) is formed by two yellow stamens protruding from the flower. The fruit (called acebuchina) is a kind of drupe (fleshy fruit with only one bone), it has an ellipsoid shape, it is green at first and blackish at maturity. It has a very nice oil.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE?

This plant can grow in full light; although it also bears the shadow very well.  It can even live in extreme heat conditions in very warm areas. The wild olive tree is a very continental species, that is to say that it can bear great seasonal or daily temperature changes. It shows a clear preference for very dry soils to such an extent that it is considered a drying indicator plant. Although it is indifferent to the type of substrate, it seems to prefer very alkaline rich soils (pH 5.5-8), which is why in many cases, it is considered as an alkalinity indicator plant. It supports very well the substrate's mobility due to the action of the expansive clays (fluctuations depending on whether it is dry or hydrated, cracked).

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

It is a species with hermaphrodite plants (a monoic plant; flowers with both sexes on the same specimen). The wild olive tree completes its biological cycle every two years. Sprout growth is completed within the same year, but fruiting is completed during consecutive seasons. During the first year the buds are formed and the flowering begins. During the second year of life, the flowers and fruits development are completed.  That is to say that the branches of the previous year bear fruit. The pollen is dispersed by the wind (anemophilous dispersion) and the fruit development until its maturation can last from 4 to 5 months.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MÁLAGA?

It is a very disperse species all over the Málaga province. Some of the best populations appear in the foothills of the great mountain ranges, such as in the Axarquía, the western coastal mountains and the Montes de Málaga. It also stands out as a replacement stage for holm oak in the Sierra de Mollina. In the Great Path, we can find it on the not least stages 1 to 3, 9, 10, 17 and 33 to 35.

CURIOUS FACTS

The wild olive tree has been used as the patron of all types of cultivated olive trees. Grafted properly in an olive tree, it becomes a cultivated species acquiring its appearance. In the same way, an olive tree lacking care ends up feral and takes on the appearance of a wild olive tree. In addition, it is very interesting as a forest species and is commonly used in restocking. It is also used as an ornamental plant for its low or zero maintenance and its rusticity (great capacity for growth and adaptation to all types of land). In the Antiquity Olympic games, the winners were crowned with olive branches, attributing the great virtues of the plant to the winner. The wild olive tree oil is a gourmet product that reaches an important market value, being considered another "liquid gold" from Malaga. It is only produced in the oil presses of Monda and Casabermeja.

SIMILAR SPECIES

It can easily be mistaken with the olive tree. The wild olive tree differs from it by its more shrubby appearance, its thorns on its branches (the olive tree does not have them), its more rounded leaves and its smaller fruits.

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