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Olea europaea


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Family: Oleaceae, the olive family.

Origin: This species is native to Mediterranean region including southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It has since been introduced in areas with conditions characteristic of a Mediterranean-type climate.

other common names: Olivo, olivier and olbaum.

The tree: Olive is a short, gnarly, twisty branched tree that seldom exceeds 25 ft. in height with a trunk diameter of 2 to 4 ft. The bark is dark brown and deeply furrowed and the leaves are a soft, grayish-green color. Its fruit is the well known olive. It is extremely long lived, 1500 years old or more is not uncommon.

Appearance: The heartwood is a yellowish-tan with occasional dark brown streaks and the clearly demarcated sapwood is a lighter creamy yellow. This species produces virtually no long straight lumber due to its size and growth tendencies. The annual growth rings are fairly noticeable. The grain very close but seldom straight with a fine texture.

Density: Average reported specific gravity is about 0.70(ovendry weight/green volume), equal to an air-dried weight of 55 pcf. Janka hardness is 1520 pounds of force.

Drying & shrinkage: It dries slowly and has a tendency to check. Reaction wood is common in stock cut from branches and this material is especially prone to warping. Average reported shrinkage value (green to ovendry) is 20% volumetric.

Working properties: Despite being very hard, Olivewood works easily, although it is somewhat difficult to saw across the grain. Its fine, even texture yields smoothly to a sharp cutting edge. Possible adverse reactions from the dust include irritation to eyes, skin and respiratory system.

Durability: Olivewood is moderately durable and is susceptible to termite but somewhat resistant to fungi.

UsesIt has been used since ancient times for small woodenware objects, spoons, bowls, boxes, carvings, turnings, inlays, small decorative items and it also makes excellent, but very expensive flooring.

Availability: It is not readily available on the commercial market although it is relatively plentiful in its native range.


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