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Oleaceae: Olive Family Plant Identification Characteristics.

Plants of the Olive Family

      If you live in the northern states then you may know the lilac already. Stop and take a closer look the next time you see one. The leaves are opposite in most members of the family, sometimes on squarish stems. The flowers are regular and bisexual. There are 4 united sepals and 4 united petals (may be lacking in Fraxinus), plus 2 stamens-an uncommon combination in the plant world. The ovary is positioned superior and consists of 2 united carpels (bicarpellate) with the partition walls present, forming 2 chambers. It matures as a capsule, a pair of winged seeds or sometimes as a berry or drupe (a fleshy fruit with a stoney pit).

      Worldwide, there are 29 genera and about 600 species, including 5 genera in North America. All are shrubs or trees. The olive tree is the genus Olea and jasmine comes from Jasminum. Other cultivated genera include Abeliophyllum, Chionanthus, Fontanesia, Forsythia, Noranhia, Notelaea, Nyctanthes, Osmanthus, Osmarea, Parasyringa, Phillyrea and the privet (Ligustrum). Note that the ash tree (Fraxinus) could be mistaken for a member of the Maple Family with its winged seeds.

Key Words: Trees or shrubs with opposite leaves and 4 sepals, 4 or 0 petals and 2 stamens.

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Syringa vulgaris. Common Lilac.

Syringa vulgaris. Common Lilac.

Syringa vulgaris. Common Lilac.

Syringa vulgaris. Common Lilac. Cultivated.

Olea europaea.Olive Tree.

Olea europaea.Olive Tree. Cultivated as an ornamental at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Forsythia sp. Forsythia.

Forsythia sp. Forsythia. Cultivated.

Fraxinus anomala. Singleleaf Ash.

Fraxinus anomala. Singleleaf Ash.

Fraxinus anomala. Singleleaf Ash.

Fraxinus anomala (?) Singleleaf Ash (?) Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Utah.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Green Ash.

Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Green Ash. Tongue River, Montana.

Foraging the Mountain West
Foraging the Mountain West

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Olive Family pictures

Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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Botany in a Day
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