Common Name(s): Olive

Scientific Name: Olea spp. (Olea europaea, O. capensis)

Distribution: Europe and eastern Africa

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Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a cream or yellowish brown, with darker brown or black contrasting streaks. Color tends to deepen with age. Olive is somtimes figured with curly or wavy grain, burl, or wild grain.

Grain/Texture: Grain may be straight, interlocked, or wild. Fine uniform texture with moderate natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; small pores in no specific arrangement; solitary, and commonly in radial multiples of 2-3 or rows of 4 or more pores; yellow heartwood deposits present; growth rings may be distinct or indistinct; rays not visible without lens; parenchyma vasicentric, aliform, and confluent, though not distinct with lens.

Workability: Somewhat easy to work, though wild or interlocked grain may result in tearout during surfacing operations. Olive has high movement in service and is considered to have poor stability. Turns superbly. Glues and finishes well.

Pricing/Availability: Because of the fruit’s economic importance, healthy, cultivated Olive trees (O. europaea) aren’t felled for lumber; availability is generally limited to pruned branches, trimmings, and diseased/storm damaged orchard trees. Short lumber, turning squares, and burls are occasionally available from wild trees, as well as the closely related East African Olive (O. capensis). Prices are very high.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: High-end furniture, veneer, turned objects, and small specialty wood items.

Comments: Olive trees are commercially important throughout the natural regions where they grow. There are several subspecies and hundreds of cultivars of Olea europaea; the olives harvested from the trees are made into olive oil. The mechanical data and density readings shown above are an average between Olea europaea and O. capensis.