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(olive), a genus of plants of the family Oleaceae. Of the approximately 60 known species, only the olive (Olea europaea) has commercial importance. It is a subtropical evergreen fruit-bearing tree that grows to 4-12 m. Its small lanceolate or oblong leaves, which are dark green above and silvery gray beneath, live for two or three years. The flowers are generally bisexual, small, and white; they are gathered in a panicle with eight to 40 flowers. The fruit (olive) is an oblong or round drupe, weighing up to 15 g. When ripe it is deep violet or blackish and often has a waxy coating.
Plants of the genus Olea withstand drought well for a fruit tree and can tolerate brief periods of frost at temperatures reaching 13°-18° below freezing. Olive trees .grow best on loose sandy or loamy soils that are rich in lime. Plants grown from seeds begin bearing fruit after ten to 12 years; those from cuttings bear fruit in the fourth or fifth season. The trees may live 300-400 years or longer. Olive productivity is 20-40 kg per tree.
Olives are pickled or canned (both green and ripe); they are also used for their oil (ripe olives contain 25-80 percent oil in the pulp). The oil that is first extracted from cold pressing is called virgin olive oil, the best varieties of which are named after the French region of Provence. These oils are used in cooking, canning, and the production of medicine. The oil extracted after the first cold pressing is obtained by heating and then pressing the sapwood and seeds; it is used in the manufacture of soap. The oil cake is fed to livestock, and the wood is used in woodworking.
Olive trees are an ancient culture that originated in the Middle East. They are cultivated between 45° and 37° N lat. The largest olive groves are in Spain, Italy, and Greece. In 1970, olive plantings in Spain covered 2.2 million hectares (ha); in Italy, 1.5 million ha; and in Greece, 500,000 ha. Olive trees have been cultivated in what is now the USSR since the 13th century. There are groves in the Crimea, Transcaucasia, the Turkmen SSR, and Krasnodar Krai. Of the 500 known varieties of Olea, approximately 80 are grown in the USSR. The best varieties include Agostino, Ascolano, Nikitskii II, Krymskii, and Azerbaijani. Olive trees are propagated from root offshoots, cuttings, layers, and grafts. Two- and three-year-old seedlings are planted in the spring. If a tree-size plant is anticipated, then each seedling is planted in a plot measuring 10 × 10 or 10 × 8 m; if shrubs are desired, a 6 × 6 m plot is used. Care for olive groves is similar to that for other subtropical fruit plants.
REFERENCESZhigarevich, I. A. Kul’tura masliny. Moscow, 1955.
Gutiev, G. T. Subtropicheskie plodovye rasteniia. Moscow, 1958.