Commercial Timbers

DELTA Home

H. G. Richter and M. J. Dallwitz

Olea europea L. (Olive)

Nomenclature etc. OLEACEAE. Trade and local names: Olive (DE); olive wood (GB); olivier (FR); olivastro (IT); acebuche (ES); zeitun (nAf); sejtun (IR). Not protected under CITES regulations.

Description based on 4 specimens. Tree. Geographic distribution: Mediterranean incl. N. Africa and Middle East.

General. Growth ring boundaries distinct and indistinct or absent. Growthring limits marked by few rows of thick-walled, radially flattened latewood fibres. Heartwood basically brown and yellow, with streaks. Sapwood colour similar to heartwood colour. Odour indistinct or absent.

Vessels. Vessels present. Wood diffuse-porous. Vessels arranged in diagonal and/or radial pattern and no specific pattern, in multiples, commonly short (2–3 vessels) radial rows and radial rows of 4 or more. Vessel outline rounded. Two distinct vessel diameter classes absent. Average tangential vessel diameter 38–47–61 µm; diameter of vessel lumina: medium. Average number of vessels/mm² 86–131; vessels per square millimetre numerous and very numerous. Perforation plates simple. Intervessel pits alternate, average diameter (vertical) 3–4–6 µm, small, not vestured. Vessel-ray pits with distinct borders, similar to intervessel pits, of uniform size or type, of the same type in adjacent elements, located throughout the ray. Helical thickenings absent. Tyloses in vessels absent. Other deposits in heartwood vessels present, yellow to amber.

Tracheids and fibres. Vascular or vasicentric tracheids sporadic to absent. Fibres of medium wall thickness to very thick-walled. Fibre pits mainly restricted to radial walls, simple to minutely bordered. Helical thickenings absent. Fibres non-septate.

Axial parenchyma. Axial parenchyma present, not banded. Axial parenchyma paratracheal. Paratracheal axial parenchyma scanty and vasicentric. Axial parenchyma as strands. Average number of cells per axial parenchyma strand 2–5. Unlignified parenchyma absent.

Rays. Rays present, 7–11 per tangential mm, multiseriate (also if only few), (1–)2–3 cells wide, narrow (2–3 seriate). Rays with multiseriate portions as wide as uniseriate portions present. Aggregate rays absent. Rays of one size. Height of large rays up to 500 µm. Rays composed of two or more cell types (heterocellular). Heterocellular rays with square and upright cells restricted to marginal rows, mostly 1 marginal row of upright or square cells. Sheath cells absent. Tile cells absent. Perforated ray cells absent. Disjunctive ray parenchyma end walls indistinct or absent.

Storied structures. Storied structure absent.

Secretory structures. Oil and mucilage cells absent. Intercellular canals absent. Laticifers or tanniniferous tubes absent.

Cambial variants. Included phloem absent.

Mineral inclusions. Crystals not observed. Silica not observed.

Physical and chemical tests. Heartwood fluorescent. Water extract fluorescent; basically colourless to brown or shade of brown. Heartwood extractives leaching out when in contact with water. Ethanol extract fluorescent. Colour of ethanol extract colourless to brown or shade of brown. Chrome azurol-S test negative. Froth test negative. Splinter burns to partial ash. Ash other than white, grey, yellow or brown.

Illustrations. • Transverse section. Olea europea. • Tangential section. Olea europea. • Radial section. Olea europea.


The interactive key allows access to the character list, illustrations, full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting specified attributes, summaries of attributes within groups of taxa, and geographical distribution.

Cite this publication as: ‘Richter, H.G., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2000 onwards. Commercial timbers: descriptions, illustrations, identification, and information retrieval. In English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish. Version: 25th June 2009. http://delta-intkey.com’.

Contents