Man and the biome
Olive trees are the native arboreal species that is most commonly grown in the region of the Mediterranean scrub and is of remarkable importance in its inhabitants’ economy. Nevertheless, another two originally native species should be mentioned for their use: cork oaks and carob trees.
Other important plants that are grown here are cereals, pulse vegetables, fruit trees, vegetables and salads. Oil and wine are the most important produce on which the economy of scrub areas is based.
Cork oak forests are closely related to the climatic conditions of some Mediterranean areas. These forests have scattered populations forming agro-silvi-pastoral systems which are extremely rich in flora and fauna. In particular, the native flora, very rich in aromatic and medicinal species, may increase the value of cork oaks. Many vegetal species growing in this forest, because of their variety and long blooming period, supply bees with excellent supplies. Cork is collected only from trunks, and its production has remarkably increased over the last few years; the new cork oak forests actually cover almost 120,000 hectares.
Olive trees, probably native to Syria, were brought to Asia minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and other Mediterranean countries. By growing this tree, man has remarkably expanded the geographical distribution of this plant, which can now be found from the centre-south of France to pre-Saharan areas. The Mediterranean species, Olea europea, consists of two subspecies: oleaster or wild olive (Olea oleaster) and cultivated olive (Olea sativa). Cultivated olive trees are bigger than wild olive trees, approximately 4 to 12 metres tall, and can reach 20 metres tall if they find their ideal climate and soil. Their trunk is big, their branches are rounded, smooth and thorn-less, their foliage is generally well developed and soaring. Olive twigs are flexible and sometimes dangling, their leaves are lanceolate, green and hairless on top, bright white at the bottom. Cultivated olives are big, fleshy, rich in oil, but fewer than in wild olive trees and in any case much fewer than their flowers.
The myth of olive trees
The ancients used to say: the Mediterranean begins and ends with the olive tree, to signify the deep and extremely close relation between this plant and its geographical area, regarded as an organised unit, well distinguished from the cold and wet provinces which began in the north and the desert and dry areas of the south and east. Grown since the antiquity and worshipped by the Greeks (as the legend goes, it was Athena who planted the first olive tree in Greece), in many cultures it is one of the symbols of peace. In Jewish religion, olive oil was used in sacred rites: prophets and kings were anointed as a sign of investiture.
The restocking of extinct species is one of the strategies that...
The ancients used to say: the Mediterranean begins and ends with...