The olive tree, whose scientific name is Olea europaea , is an evergreen fruit tree originating from the Mediterranean region that is cultivated in all the warm-temperate regions of the world. In addition to producing such delicious olives, it is a species that over time becomes more and more beautiful.
The scars and cracks, and even the holes that some birds and insects produce, make the old trunk of this tree look spectacular. We can know that it has a long life expectancy just by looking at it, but … how long does an olive live exactly?
What is their life expectancy?
The trees that grow slowly, like oak , the redwoods , or have , although they are very different from each other, have something in common: they can live for over a thousand years , in fact, just to give us an idea of how long they can be, specimens of giant sequoia have been found that have reached 3200 years. Much more than any animal. But our main tree does not have the resources of the oaks or the beech trees.
The olive tree , a tree native to the Mediterranean region, does not grow slowly because it is cold, but because the annual rainfall is so low and the soil is so poor in nutrients that it simply cannot grow faster . When grown in a pot or in a compost garden, the plant does look remarkably larger from year to year, but if left to its own devices, it will take several tens of years to become an admirable specimen.
All in all, its life expectancy is just as amazing: about 3,000 years . Yes, yes, three thousand years. An incredible age for an evergreen.
What is the oldest olive tree in the world?
In Spain we have ‘La Farga de Arion’, which is a specimen found in the Tarragona town of Ulldecona that was planted in 314, in the mandate of Emperor Constantine I (AD 306-337), who has therefore more than 1700 years. In addition, on the island of Menorca grows a 2310 year old; and we still have another one in the country that is worth mentioning: some 2050 years old has been found about 20 kilometers north of Lisbon. But … even they are young compared to others in the Iberian Peninsula and in the rest of the world.
Leaving the Spanish territory and going to Portugal, we will find one known as the Mouchao olive tree, which is about 3350 years old according to researcher José Luis Lousada, from UTAD (University of Trás-os-Montes). It is 3.2 meters high, and its trunk is very thick, with a perimeter of 11 meters.
But we have to go to Palestine to see the oldest olive tree in the world. In the town of Belén, some between 4,000 and 5,000 years old are said to live.
How much does an olive tree grow per year?
The olive tree is a slow growing tree, but if the climate and soil conditions are adequate and it receives water every time it needs it, during its youth and especially during the first two years of its life (from seed) it will grow at a good pace, at a rate of about 40 centimeters per year.
From the third and, above all, the fifth year, it will begin to slow down, so it is normal for it to increase its height by about 30 centimeters per season. As soon as it blooms for the first time, something it will do after the age of five or so, its growth rate will slow even further.
Once it reaches its final height, it will continue to expend energy on the thickening of the trunk and the production of branches, flowers and fruits , but not on continuing to grow vertically. On the other hand, it is important to know that the development of its roots will continue, which leads me to the following question:
How tall are the roots of an adult olive tree?
Image – Wikimedia / Vicenç Salvador Torres Guerola
The roots of Mediterranean trees are usually very long and deep. Drought is such a serious problem that it can take months for it to rain again (in my area, for example, it usually takes about five to six months for rainfall to return). Therefore, it is crucial that the roots grow a lot in order to reach some area where there is some moisture.
Therefore, when planting an olive tree in the garden , keep in mind that it can have roots growing up to 12 meters horizontally , and about 6 meters vertically inland.
Did you know that olive trees could live so long?