The Olive Tree

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Olives on a branch. Close up green olives on a tree.

“The Olive Tree is surely the greatest gift from heaven”.  — Thomas Jefferson.

So declared our nation’s third president, and how right he was!  A few little known facts about the olive tree:

  • The average life of an olive tree is 300-600 years!
  • In ancient Greece, a person could be fined for digging up too many olive trees, even on their own land!
  • The oldest certified olive tree is more than 2000 years old – an olive tree of Vouves Crete, Greece. It is probably one of the oldest olive trees in the world and still produces olives today. Even older ones exist have documented… between 4,000 and 5,000 years old.
  • An olive branch appears on the national flags of seven nations, four US states and the flag of the United Nations.
  • An olive branch is an international symbol for peace.
  • During the 2004 Summer Olympics, the ancient tradition of crowning Olympians with olive sprays was brought back. Over 2,550 olive branches were used.
  • The olive tree is extremely useful.  It not only provides food for consumption, but the oil is used in lip balm, shampoo, bath oils, hand lotions, soap, massage oil, dandruff treatment, cosmetics, and perfume.  The oil is used in cooking and is burned for light.  The leaf is used in medicinal teas.  The greenish-brown wood is valued by woodworkers.
  • Olive tree waste provides renewable energy; when burned it produces 2.5 times the heat of burning wood, and the smoke is harmless.  Its ash is used for fertilizing gardens.
  • The tree grows slowly, develops an extensive root system, produces a trunk of considerable girth and tolerates drought well.
  • Olive trees symbolize health and abundance.  Their leaves have been used to crown victors and champions and offered to deities for purification.  Their oil has been used to anoint kings and priests.
  • Olive trees and olives are mentioned many times in the Jewish Torah, the Christian Bible, and the Quran of Islam.
  • In the Bible, a dove brought an olive branch to demonstrate that the worldwide flood was over.  The olive tree was used to symbolize the Israelite nation.  Jesus went to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem frequently.
  • Olive wood is hard and non porous, making it ideal for chopping boards and other kitchen items. It doesn’t absorb flavors, odors or bacteria and does not stain.
  • The darkness of the olive wood denotes the wood’s age. The darker the grain, the older the wood.

So Mr. Jefferson, you are correct. The Olive Tree surely is the richest gift from heaven.


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