How Long Do Olive Trees Live?

An olive tree will usually have a life expectancy of around 500 years. While this is the average, some olive cultivars can live far longer than this. Examples of olive trees living hundreds or even thousands of years beyond this average are not uncommon. Ancient olive trees have been discovered that are over 2,000 years old.

How long do olive trees live?

How Many Years Do Olive Trees Produce?

Olive trees will engage in olive production for most of their lives. It takes 7-8 years to reach the mature tree stage at which point it will begin fruit production. After this, it takes 65-80 years for the tree to reach stable yields. 

  • Olive trees bear fruit for most of their lives after a short maturation period.
  • A 100 year-old olive tree will have stable fruit yields.
  • Trees will begin to decrease in fruit production each year until they near the end of their average life expectancy.

Once stable yields have been reached, olive production begins to decrease over time. At some point your tree will stop producing olives entirely. Typically this will happen around 500 years of age, shortly before the tree dies. However, some elderly trees can be made productive again through grafting.

How Can You Tell How Old an Olive Tree Is?

Without expensive scientific tools, it’s close to impossible to gauge the age of olive trees without cutting them down. Scientifically, you can use radiometric dating to tell exactly how old a tree is. However, this requires both specialized instruments and a tree’s heartwood. If a tree’s heartwood is gone, it is impossible to figure out the age through radiometric dating.

  • The only surefire ways to tell a tree’s age are to cut it down and count the tree rings or use radiometric dating.
  • You can estimate the tree’s age by measuring the trunk circumference and the annual rate of trunk growth.

However, you can estimate tree age using two factors. First, you’ll need the circumference of the trunk. Second, you’ll need to measure how much the trunk grows each year. Once you have these factors, you can estimate how long ago the tree was a seedling. It’s not the most precise method and it requires much patience and waiting to get the necessary factors. However, it is the only method available to a layman without cutting down the tree.

Do Olive Trees Live Forever?

Olive trees don’t live forever but they are exceptionally long-lived. Archaeological evidence from the Mediterranean region suggests that these trees can and have lived exceptionally long lives. Due to plant hardiness and an ideal climate, a healthy tree can easily thrive for centuries. Because olives have been farmed by humans for eons, there is an incentive to increase their average lifespan. 

  • Nothing lives forever, but olive trees can be some of the oldest trees in the world.
  • Olive tree cultivation has resulted in hardy plants that live incredible lifespans.

Olive tree cultivation dates back to well before the 20th century BCE and these trees have been extremely useful ever since. Olive trees have been vital both for fruit and also for olive oil production. Any cook can tell you that virgin olive oil is one of the go-to oils for any serious kitchen.

Can Olive Trees Live 2,000 Years?

It is extremely unlikely, but there are documented cases of olive trees that have lived to 2,000 years old. Average olive groves won’t produce 2,000-year-old trees with any regularity though. Rather, 2,000-year-old trees appear to be a rare exception.

  • 2,000 years is a possible lifespan for olive trees but it is very rare.
  • Providing the ideal growing conditions for olive trees ensures a long lifespan.

To ensure your olive tree lives as long as possible, you’ll need to provide ideal growing conditions. This means lots of dry, chalky soil and access to full sun (6 hours of direct sunlight each day). Additionally, olive trees need weekly waterings and balanced fertilizer. By providing these needs, you will give your tree the best chance of living a long, healthy life.

What is the Oldest Olive Tree in the World?

The olive tree of Vouves has been confirmed by tree ring analysis to be around 2,000 years old. Its exact age is impossible to know because its heartwood has been lost over time. This makes radiometric dating (the most accurate dating) impossible to employ. Heartwood is the oldest part of the tree but is not vital to the tree’s survival. Once the heartwood has rotted away or been removed, you can no longer date back to the tree’s infancy. 

  • The oldest living olive tree is in Vouves, Greece at 2,000 or so years old.
  • This ancient olive tree still produces olives to this day thanks to a graft.

The Vouves olive tree actually remains active and continues to bear fruit to this day. This is due to having had another olive cultivar grafted onto it. The energy provided by this younger olive plant helps to keep this ancient tree healthy and productive.

How Long Do Olive Trees Last?

An olive can live for up to 2,000 years. However, most olive trees will only live for around 500 years. Some fascinating facts about olive tree aging are:

  • An olive fruit tree will typically live for around 500 years.
  • It’s extremely difficult to tell the age of a tree without cutting it down and counting the tree rings.
  • Olive trees don’t live forever but do sometimes reach incredible ages—up to 2,000 years old.
  • The oldest living adult olive tree is the olive tree of Vouves.

Although your olive tree may not like to be 2,000, with the right care you can set it up for success. It may live for centuries, producing delicious olives well into the future.

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