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Olea europaea L.
Common Name: Olive
Related Species: Wild Olive (Olea africana), Oleaster (O. europaea var. oleaster.
Distant Affinity: American Olive (Osmanthus americana), Fragrant Olive (O. fragrans).
Origin: The olive is native to the Mediterranean region, tropical and central Asia and various parts of Africa. The olive has a history almost as long as that of Western civilization, its development being one of civilized man's first accomplishments. At a site in Spain, carbon-dating has shown olive seed found there to be eight thousand years old. O. europaea may have been cultivated independently in two places, Crete and Syria. Archeological evidence suggest that olives were being grown in Crete as long ago as 2,500 B.C. From Crete and Syria olives spread to Greece, Rome and other parts of the Mediterranean area. Olives are also grown commercially in California, Australia and South Africa. There is some disagreement over when the trees first appeared in California. Some say they were introduced in 1769 when seeds brought from Mexico were planted. Others site the date 1785 when trees were brought in to make olive oil.
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