The olive tree is an evergreen tree or shrub native to the Mediterranean, Asia, and Africa. It is short and squat, and rarely exceeds 8–15 m in height. The silvery green leaves are oblong, measuring 4–10 cm long and 1–3 cm wide. The trunk is typically gnarled and twisted.
The small, white, feathery flowers, with ten-cleft calyx and corolla, two stamens, and bifid stigma, are borne generally on the previous year's wood, in racemes springing from the axils of the leaves.
The fruit is a small drupe 1–2.5 cm long, thinner-fleshed and smaller in wild plants than in orchard cultivars. Olives are harvested in the green to purple stage.