Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Genus OLEA, Linn.

Oleaceae.

Diandria Monogynia.
Syst. Nat.

Syst. Lin.
Derivation. The word Olea is derived from the Greek elaia, the olive-tree; and, in its turn, as De Theis conjectures, from
the Celtic oleu, oil.
Generic Characters. Corolla quadrifid, with the segments nearly ovate. Drupe a monospermous plum.

CHE genus Olea embraces more than twenty species, either indi

genous or cultivated in the temperate parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Besides the Olea europæa, and americana, hereafter described, may be noted, as worthy of cultivation, the Olea excelsa, a native of Madeira, and sufficiently hardy to with

stand the climate of Britain and the temperate parts of the United States; the Olea emarginata, indigenous to Madagascar; the Olea capensis, a native of the Cape of Good Hope; and the Olea fragrans, of China and Japan, where it is much cultivated for the sake of its sweet-scented flowers; which, it is said, are used for giving flavour to schulang tea. The scent of this plant, Messrs. Loddiges observe,"is astonishing; and so diffusive, that we distinctly noticed it, when in bloom, on the back wall of our green-house, at considerable more than one hundred yards' distance."

[graphic]

Olea europæd, ,

THE EUROPEAN OLIVE-TREE.

Synonymes.

(LINNÆUS, Species Plantarum.

Michaux, North American Sylva.
Olea europæa,

Don, Miller's Dictionary.

Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum.
Olivier,

France.
Oehlbaum, Olivenbaum,

GERMANY.
Olivo, Ulivo,

ITALY.
Olivo,

SPAIN.
Oliveyra,

PORTUGAL
Olive-tree,

BRITAIN AND ANGLO-AMERICA.
Engravings. Michaux, North American Sylva, pl. 87; Loudon, Arboretum Britannicum, ii., fig. 1032; and the figures
below.
Specific Characters. Leaves lanceolate, pointed, entire, hoary beneath. Branches angular, not spiny.-
Loudon, Enc. of Plants.

Description

"The trees went forth on a time to appoint a king over them; and they said to the olive-tree, reign thou over us."

HOLY WRIT.

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

HE Olea europæa,

in its general ap-
pearance, is a tree

bearing considerable resemblance to the common willow, which has been lopped, and acquired a new summit of three or four years' growth. It seldom exceeds thirty feet in height, with a trunk two feet in diameter, and frequently it does not attain one half of these dimensions. It ramifies at a small height from the ground, and forms a compact summit. The bark of the trunk and branches, when young, is smooth, of an ashy hue, and when the epidermis is removed, the cellular integument appears of a light-green. On old trees, the bark upon the trunk, and upon the base of the principal limbs, is brown, rough, and deeply furrowed. In spring and autumn, when the sap is in motion, the bark is easily detached from the body of the tree. The main limbs are numerously divided, with their branchlets opposite, and in pairs, alternately placed upon conjugate

The foliage is of a pale, impoverished evergreen verdure, but a part of it turns yellow, and falls in the summer, and in three years it is completely renewed. In spring or early autumn, when the vegetation of this tree is in its greatest active ity, the young leaves put forth directly above the cicatrix of the former leafstalks, and are distinguished by their suppleness, and by the freshness of their tint. The colour of the leaves varies in the different varieties of this species, but they are generally smooth, of a light-green above, and whitish or glaucous and somewhat downy, with a prominent midrib, beneath. On most of the cultivated varieties, they are from an inch and a half to two inches long, and from

half of an inch to an inch broad, narrow, with both ends acute, even, and entire at the edge, joined to the main stem by very short foot-stalks, and opposite, after the manner of the branchlets. The flower-buds begin to appear about the middle of April, but the bloom is not full before the end of May or the beginning of June. The flowers, which are borne by the shoots of the preceding year, are small, white, slightly odoriferous, and are disposed in axillary racemes, some of which are almost as numerous as the leaves, and garnish the tree with wanton luxuriance, while other bunches are thinly scattered over the branches, or are seen only at their extremities. A week after the expansion of the flower, the corolla fades and falls. If the calyx remains behind, a favourable presage is formed of the fruitfulness of the season; but the hopes of the husbandman are liable to be blasted, at this period, at the slightest intemperateness of the elements, which causes the germ to fall with the flower; whereas, warm weather, accompanied by gentle breezes that agitate the tree and facilitate the secundation, is most propitious to his wishes. The fruit of the olive is egg-shaped, pointed at the extremity, and is usually from a half to three-fourths of an inch in diameter, in one direction, and from three-fourths of an inch to an inch and a half in the other; but, on wild trees, it scarcely exceeds the size of a common currant. The skin is smooth, and generally of a violet colour, when ripe; but in certain varieties, it is of various shades of red, yellow, and black. The pulp is greenish, containing an oblong, pointed stone, divided into two cells, one of which is usually void. The oil of the olive is furnished by the pulp, which is a characteristic almost peculiar to this fruit, and that of the Cornus mas, and purpurea, being extracted from the seeds of other oleaginous vegetables. The young olives set in June; increase in size, and remain green during the summer; begin to change colour early in October; and are ripe at the end of November, or by the beginning of December. On the wild olive, five or six fruits are ripened upon each peduncle; but on the cultivated tree a great part of the flowers prove abortive, and the green fruit is cast at every stage of its growth, so that rarely more than one or two germs upon a cluster arrive at maturity. Varieties. The olive, like many other kinds of fruit

, has, by long cultivation, become exceedingly multiplied in its varieties, which may be considered as more or less accidental or temporary. From the extensive distribution and long cultivation of this tree, it is utterly impossible to trace the multitude of cultivated sorts to their original form. The wild, thorny olive, (Olea oleaster,) indigenous to Spain, Portugal, the south of France, and Italy, is thought by some, to bear the same relation to the cultivated olive, as the crab does to the apple, and the pyraster to the pear. The following varieties, however, appear to be sufficiently distinct, the first of which, may be considered as the normal form of the species :

1. 0. E. LONGIFOLIA, Loudon. Long-leaved European Olive-tree; Olea europea, of Michaux; Olivier d' Europe, of the French; Langblättriger Oehlbaum, of the Germans. This variety is that which is principally cultivated in France and Italy, and answers to the general description at the commencement of this article.

2. O. E. LATIFOLIA, Loudon. Broad-leaved European Olive-tree; Olea hispanica, of Blackwell, in Miller's Dictionary; Olivier d'Espagne, of the French; Breitblättriger Oehlbaum, of the Germans. This variety is chiefly cultivated in Spain, the fruit of which is nearly double the size of the common olive of Provence or Italy; but the oil made from it is too rank in flavour for most palates.

3. 0. E. FERRUGINEA, Loudon. Ferruginous-leaved European Olive-tree, a native of the Cape of Good Hope, and, according to Mr. Royle, of the Himalayas, with the leaves narrow, acute at both ends, and rusty beneath.

4. 0. E. CURVIFOLIA. Twisted-leaved European Olive-tree; Olivier à feuilles torses, of the French, with oblong leaves bent obliquely, and pale beneath.

grappe, of

5. O. E. BUXIFOLIA, Loudon. Box-leaved European Olive-tree; Olivier à feuilles de buis, of the French, with oblong-ovate leaves, and divaricate branches.

6. O. E. LAURIFOLIA. Laurel-leaved European Olive-tree; Olivier à feuilles de laurier, of the French.

7. 0. E. UMBRACULA. Umbrella European Olive-tree; Olivier en parasol, of the French

8. O. E. PENDULA. Pendious-branched European Olive-tree; Olivier d rameaux pendans, of the French.

9. O. E. POLYMORPHA. Many-formed-fruited or Weeping European Olive-tree; Olivier pleureur or Olivier de grasse, of the French. This variety is one of the largest and finest trees. Its branches are numerous and pendant, like those of the weeping willow. Its fruit is good for the table, and yields a pure and abundant oil. It should be grown in valleys rather than on elevated ground, as there is more to be feared from drought than cold. It is said there are individuals of this kind, in Languedoc, that have three times survived the general destruction of the olive, in France, by frost.

10. O. E. MACROCARPA. Large-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier à gros fruit, of the French.

11. O. E. MINIMA. Small-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier à petit fruit rond or Olivier de salon, of the French.' This variety produces a small round fruit, good for oil, and prefers dry and elevated grounds.

12. O. E. ROTUNDATA. Round-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier à fruit rond, of the French. This variety is among the less hardy kinds, and requires moisture, a good soil, and an abundance of manure. Its fruit yields an oil of superior quality.

13. O. E. UVARIA. Grape-like-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier d the French.

14. O. E. AMYGDALINA. Almond-like-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier amygdalin, of the French, much esteemed about Montpellier, for its fine and abundant oil.

15. O. E. OBLONGA. Oblong-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier d fruit oblong, of the French.

16. O. E. FRUCTU LONGO. Long-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier à fruit long or Olivier à olives picholines, of the French. This variety yields the kind of olives most celebrated for pickling, and is not very particular in the choice of soil and climate.

17. O. E. NIGERRIMA. Black-fruited European Olive-tree; Olivier à fruit noir, of the French, a variety common in Palestine.

18. 0. E. BIFLORENS. Semi-annual-Flowering European Olive-tree; Olivier de deux saisons, of the French.

19. O. E. SEMPERFLORENS. Ever-flowering European Olive-tree; Olivier de tous les mois, of the French.

20. 0. E. PRÆCox. Early-flowering European Olive-tree; Olivier précoce, of the French.

21. O. E. SEROTINA. Late-flowering European Olive-tree; Olivier tardif, of the French.

Geography and History. The Olea europæa is found indigenous in Syria, Greece, northern Africa, on the lower slopes of Mount Atlas, and is naturalized in different parts of France, Spain, and Italy, where it is found growing wild in hedges and woods; but its fruit is small and unfit for use. The cultivated olive grows spontaneously in the temperate parts of Asia and Africa, by the sea-coast; and it promises, also, to be a valuable tree in Australia. It abounds in many parts of Syria, particularly about Aleppo and Mount Libanus; and is easily reared in all parts of the shores of the Levant that are not visited by frosts winds. The beautiful plain of Athens, as seen towards the north-west from Mount Hymettus, it is said, appears entirely covered with olive-trees. Tuscany, the south of France, and the plains of Spain, are the places in Europe in which this species was first cultivated. The Tuscans were the first who exported oliveoil largely, and thus it has obtained the name of “Florence oil." I'he particular departments of France, in which the olive is most successfully cultivated, are those of the mouths of the Rhone, of the Var, of the Gard, and some others; but it does not ripen its fruit to the north of a line drawn from the Pyrenees, near Narbonne, to the foot of the little St. Bernard in the Alps; or, in that part of France which may be considered as forming a portion of the basin of the Mediterranean, and which is enclosed between that sea and the mountains of Cevennes and the Alps. The province of Suse, in Morocco, particularly in the neighbourhood of Mersa, produces a great abundance of olive oil, which is stated to be equal, in quality, to the best Florence oil. The olive grows in Britain; but, from the severity of the climate, its character is changed. In its native country it is an evergreen; but in England, it loses its leaves. Indeed, it needs protection even in the mildest winters; and it is only in the very warmest summers that it will produce fruit at all, which then does not ripen, and is of a very poor flavour. Thus Italy, south of the Apennines, and Turkey, south of the Hæmus, or a line running directly westward from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, in about latitude forty-four degrees, appears to be the general northern limit of the culture of this tree in Europe; while on the Atlantic coast of North America, it scarcely reaches thirty-four degrees of latitude. Near Charleston, in South Carolina, the olive is usually rendered barren by the vernal frosts; and in the southern parts of Florida and Louisiana, where it would be secure in winter, it languishes through the sultry heats of summer, for the want of those refreshing breezes which in vigorate this tree on the shores of the Mediterranean. But, doubtless, there are tracts in this country, uniting the conditions necessary for its growth, which have been demonstrated by several experiments—one in particular, we here beg leave to relate. While the Floridas were held by the English, in 1769, one Dr. Turnbull, a famous adventurer of that nation, brought over from Smyrna, a colony of fifteen hundred Greeks and Minorcans, chiefly of the former, and founded the settlement of New Smyrna, on Mosquito River. One of the principal treasures which they brought from their native land, was the olive. Mr. William Bartram, who visited this colony in 1775, describes that place as a flourishing town. Its prosperity, however, was of momentary duration. Driven to despair by hardships, oppression, and disease, and precluded from escape by land, where they were intercepted by the savages of the wilderness, a part of these unhappy exiles died, while others conceived the hardy enterprise of embarking for Havana in an open boat, and in three years their number was reduced to five hundred. The rest removed to St. Augustine, when the Spaniards resumed possession of the country; and, in 1783, a few decaying huts, and several large olive-trees, were the only remains to be seen of their wearied industry. In New California, on the Pacific, they cultivate the olive with success along the canal of Santa Barbara, in latitude thirty-four degrees north; and at Quito, in South America, near the equator, this tree, for eight thousand feet up the Andes, often attains the magnitude of the oak, but seldom or never bears fruit.

The olive, which is called by Columella, the first among trees, has constituted, from the remotest antiquity, the pride of some of the most celebrated regions of the globe; and, aside from the commercial value of its products, it is invested, both in sacred and profane history, with a thousand interesting associations. It appears to have been cultivated very early; for we read of oil in the time of Jacob; and the patriarch Noah had sent out a dove from the ark, but she returned without any token of hope. Then

« AnteriorContinuar »