The Oleaceae, or olive family, is a plant family containing 24 extant genera and around 600 species of mesophytic shrubs, trees and occasionally vines. As shrubs, members of this family may be twine climbers, or scramblers.



The family is characterized by opposite leaves that may be simple or compound (either pinnate or ternate), without stipule. Alternate or whorled arrangements are rarely observed, with some Jasminum species presenting spiral configuration. The lamina are pinnately-veined and can be serrate, dentate or entire at margin. Domatia are observed in certain taxa. The leaves may be either deciduous or evergreen, with evergreen species predominating in warm temperate and tropical regions, and deciduous species predominating in colder regions.


The flowers are most often bisexual and actinomorphic, occurring in panicles, racemes or panicles, and often fragrant. The calyx, which may or may not be present, and the corolla are synsepalous and four-lobed. The androecium has 2 stamens inserted in the perigynous zone and alternate with the lobes. The stigmas are two-lobed.

The gynoecium consists of a compound pistil with two carpels. The ovary is superior with two locules, each of which bearing two axillary ovules. Sometimes the base of the ovary is circled by a nectary disk. The plants are most often hermaphrodite but sometimes polygamomonoecious.


Oleaceae fruit can be berries, drupes, capsules or samaras.


Many members of the family are economically significant. The olive (Olea europaea) is important for its fruit and the oil extracted from it, the ashes (Fraxinus) are valued for tough wood, and forsythia, lilacs, jasmines, osmanthuses, privets, and fringetrees are valued as ornamental plants in gardens and landscaping.

Search another word or see Oleaceaeon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature