Olea europaea; family Oleaceae), subtropical, broad-leaved, evergreen tree and its edible fruit. The tree, ranging in height from 3 to 12 metres (10 to 40 feet) or more, has numerous branches; its leaves, leathery and lance-shaped, are dark green above and silvery on the underside and are paired opposite each other on the twig. The wood is resistant to decay; if the top dies back, a new trunk will often arise from the roots. The tree's beauty has been extolled for thousands of years. The edible olive was grown on the island of Crete about 3500 BC; the Semitic peoples apparently cultivated it as early as 3000 BC. Olive oil was prized for anointing the body in Greece during the time of Homer; and it was an important crop of the Romans C. 600 BC. Later, olive growing spread to all the countries bordering the Mediterranean.