Olea europaea ssp. europaea var. sylvestris

Wild olive, oleaster                                                                                Aγριέλαιος                            

Oleaceae - olive family                                                                                    Dicot


The olive tree is often as the defining plant of the Mediterranean habitat and it will only flourish in a typically Mediterranean environment.1 It is probably not native to the Mediterranean but of more eastern origin1 arising from the Levant in an area between modern Syria and Turkey.2 There is evidence that oleasters (wild olives) were used to produce olives throughout the Mediterranean basin in Neolithic times (10,00 - 7,000 years ago). With small oval leaves and small bitter fruit it grows from olive stones or as suckers from the base of cultivated trees. In Skopelos it is not so much wild as feral as there are no truly wild olives on the island. It is most often seen as young whips or angular bushes but can be found in some sites as old gnarled specimens.

Olive trees come in many interesting shapes and sizes and are an essential feature of the "Greekness" of the landscape. Olive groves form an important habitat on many Greek islands, the intermingling of genes over many centuries of cultivation  has resulted in at least 1,200 olive cultivars in the Mediterranean basin. The cultivated olive and the wild olive are the same species, Olea europaea ssp. europeae, but the genome occurs in 2 forms variant sylvestris, which is the wild olive and variant europaeae, the cultivated form. 3

From Greekness

by Yannis Ritsos, translated by Peter Levi

 This countryside is as harsh as silence, 

clenches its burnt up pebbles against its chest,

clenches its orphaned olive-trees and vines in light,

clenches its teeth. There is no water. Only light.

  1. 1.Polunin, Oleg and Anthony Huxley.  Flowers of the Mediterranean. Chatto and Windus.  1981.

  2. 2.Kris Hirst. Olive History. Domestication of Olea europaea.

  3. 3.Bracci, Busconi, Foger, Sebastini. Molecular studies in olive (Olea europaea L.): overview on DNA markers applications and recent advances in genome analysis.

Phillyrea latifolia
Mock privetPhillyrea_latifolia.html
Myrtus communis
Greek myrtleMyrtus_communis.html