Botanical Aspects of Olive Culture Relevant to Jacob 5


olive tree allegory of Jacob 5 offers a detailed metaphorical description of
the dispersion and gathering of the House of Israel. While authors have
practical and literary reasons for using an allegorical style, among its most
effective uses is to illustrate an idea by drawing an analogy to a familiar
setting. Although olives are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon after Jacob 5,
olive culture was clearly a familiar and important part of agriculture in
Palestine in Lehi’s day and in Old Testament times generally. The purpose of
this paper is to analyze the botanical and horticultural aspects of olive
culture inherent in Zenos’s allegory and compare them with ancient and modern
information about raising and cultivating olives.

horticulturalists had a very good understanding of horticultural principles as
they applied to olive culture. Because plants were ever present in their
environment, ancient peoples often associated societal events with seasonal
changes in surrounding vegetation. In the Mediterranean region, one of the few
areas in the world that is well suited for olive culture, there are indications
that its inhabitants were familiar with olives very early and used olives
symbolically in their writings and ceremonies. Even in villages and cities
people had plants adjacent to their dwellings and referred to important events,
such as births, marriages, deaths, etc., in terms of tree blossoms, fruit
harvests, or other seasonal events. For this reason it was natural for
Israelite prophets to use plant imagery in their messages. In addition, much of
the populace in ancient times was illiterate, and precise time keeping, a
relatively modern phenomenon, was not yet available. Therefore, it was
customary in ancient times to refer to botanical imagery because of the common
person’s understanding of regular botanical events and seasonal changes.


Indo‑European root of the word olive is thought to be elaia. Greek uses elaion for olive oil and elaia for olive tree. The terms olive, oleo, oleaginous, oleograph, oleophilic, oil, and oily are all
derived from the Greek root word for olive.1 In Latin it was oliuetum for olive
grove, oleum for olive oil, olea for olive tree (Olea is the genus of true olives in
scientific Latin), and oleaster the
subspecies or varietal name for wild olive. This last term was adopted into
English.2 Oliua in Latin became Oliuarius in English, meaning “of
or like” olives.

Candolle discusses early references to olives and indicates that the earliest
Hebrew books mention the olive as sait or seit, both wild and cultivated.3 He suggests that the Semitic word sait must date from remote antiquity. It is found in modern Persian as seitun, in Arabic as zeitun or sjetun, and in Turkish or among the Tartars of the Crimea as seitun, which may signify that it is of
Turanian origin or from the remote epoch when the Turanian and Semitic peoples

Candolle also states that the ancient Egyptians cultivated the olive tree, which
they called tat.4 Branches or leaves of olive have been found in sarcophagi. He suggests that the
Egyptian name, quite different than the Semitic, shows an awareness of olives
more ancient than the earliest Egyptian dynasties. The olive apparently did not
play a major role in Egyptian or Lower Mesopotamian agriculture, based on
archaeological evidence, but olive oil was important from Palestine to Egypt.5

Berber name for the olive, both tree and fruit, has the root taz or tas, similar to the tat of the ancient Egyptians. The French‑Berber dictionary calls the wild
olive tazebboujt, testtha, and ou’ zebbouj, and the grafted olive tazemourt, tasettha, and ou’ zemmour. Another Berber nation, the
Touaregs, call it tamahinet. These
are strong indications of the antiquity of the olive in Africa.6

Arabs of Algiers use the term zenboudje for the wild olive, zitoun for the
cultivated olive, and zit for olive
oil. The Andalusians call the wild olive azebuche and the cultivated olive aceytuno. In
other provinces, the Latin olivio was
used together with the Arabic words. The reference to oil in Spanish is aceite and in Portuguese azeite, which are similar to the Hebrew
name. However, the holy oils are called óleos
because they came from Rome. The Basques used the Latin name for the
olive tree, olea.7

early etymology is reflected in present terminology as follows: French, olive; Spanish, oliva; Italian, oliva;
Portuguese, azeitona; Rumanian, maslina; German, Olive or Ölbaum; Dutch, olijf; Swedish, oliv; Danish, oliven;
Norwegian, oliven; Polish oliwka; Czech, oliva; Serbo-Croatian, maslina;
Hungarian, olajbogyo; Finnish, oliivi; Turkish, zeytin; Indonesian, zait;
Esperanto, olivo; Russian, aliva; Greek, elia; Arabic, zaytoun;
Hebrew, sayit; Yiddish, olif; Japanese, oriibu; Swahili, zeituni.8

Archaeological and Historical
Evidences of the Domestication of the Olive

states that “nothing could be more misleading than to attribute the
emergence of Aegean civilization” to only subsistence changes.9 Although evidence on the beginnings of fruit horticulture is fragmentary, “examinations
of plant remains in Neolithic and Bronze Age sites in the Near East and Greece
. . . indicate that olives, dates, . . . grapes, figs, and pomegranates were
already under cultivation in protohistoric times.”10 From the beginning of the Neolithic period (around 6000 B.C.), the plants and
animals, which were to have a significant role in late Bronze Age times, were
already there. Renfrew suggests that “the early neolithic was probably
based upon cereals,” centering on emmer wheat. During the later neolithic
much more diversity developed and there was “a deliberate collection [and]
exploitation of a whole range of wild species, including the fig and grape.”11 As a result of some specialized uses of these various species, the vine and
olive were also domesticated.

7000 B.C. permanent agricultural villages were well established throughout the
Near East. Grain‑farming and stock raising, especially sheep and
goats, were important. This pattern predominated for the next four thousand years. With
the Bronze Age, horticulture was developed in the Levant to give agriculture
its distinctively Mediterranean character. Some evidence indicates that by 3100
B.C., five fruits had been domesticated: olive, grape, date, fig, and
pomegranate.12 An olive press was unearthed at Ugarit (present-day Syria) in a late third
millennium context.13

addition to the philological data in the foregoing section, it is evident that
olives were present in Palestine by the fourth millennium B.C. based upon the
presence of numerous well‑preserved olive stones. Olive stones and olive
wood charcoal have been found in Chalcolithic horizons (3200 B.C.) of Tell
Mashosh near Beersheva and in early Bronze Age deposits (2900–2700 B.C.). Olive
wood and stones are also present in Middle Bronze Age deposits, but few early
finds of olive have been reported outside Palestine.14

the beginnings of olive cultivation, Kathleen Kenyon stated that it is
reasonably certain that olives were cultivated in Palestine by at least the
early third millennium B.C. and possibly as early as the fourth millennium.15 This conclusion was drawn from the discovery of olive and date stones stored in
stone-lined silos at Teleilat Ghassul, just east of the Jordan near the Dead
Sea. In his review, Boardman states, “The place and time of its first
cultivation, if there was a single place and time, and its first use for the
production of oil, is less clear. It has normally been assumed that this
happened somewhere in the Syria/Palestine region, probably in the Early Bronze
Age or Chalcolithic period.”16

agrees that olive cultivation probably started in the area of Northern
Palestine-Southern Syria.17 He mentions that plant micro‑remains from three Chalcolithic sites in the
Jordan Valley indicate early olive tree cultivation and an economy largely
based on the olive tree. Noy, Legge, and Higgs point out that materials were found in
various levels excavated at Nahal Oren Kebaran, about 10 km south of Haifa in
the Wadi Fellah.18 The materials were dated from approximately 14,000 to 16,000 B.C. The site was
repeatedly occupied over thousands of years by culture after culture. Seeds
from several plants were found, including olive seeds. The authors did not
indicate whether they thought they were wild or domesticated, although they
most likely were wild.

Hopf studied remains of cultivated plants from Arad from the Early Bronze
Age.19 She stated that by this time the diet was enriched by olives. Throughout the
two hundred years of settlement the olive stones were almost the same size. She
suggested that the inhabitants of Arad probably did not need to plant olive
trees but could utilize (and perhaps graft) trees growing locally. Judging
from the slightly longer, younger stones, the assumption was made that the
olive trees may subsequently have enjoyed special care and attention. The size
of the stones from wild or cultivated trees originally differed very little,
especially under varying conditions of growth. She stated that, “only in
Greece and Italy are we sure that any olive trees we meet have been nursed by
man.” An additional point of interest is that the evidence of Egyptian
documents suggests that oil was a commodity brought from regions outside Egypt
and that Egyptian jars were found in Arad. The assumption was made that Arad
was one of the Canaanite centers of trade with Egypt.

harmony with a Palestinian-Syrian origin for the beginnings of olive
cultivation, Greek mythological legends suggest that the cultivated olive came
into Greece from an outside source. Turrill points out that Greek myths and
legends emphasize the importance of vegetative propagation as a source of
beginnings for the cultivated olive in that part of the world.20 Turrill adds that archaeological evidence confirms the importance of the olive
in Greece only from Early Minoan times onward (circa 1300 B.C.), while evidence
is certain that the olive, Olea europaea L., has been cultivated in the Mediterranean basin from the days of the
earliest civilizations.21

all writers have concluded, however, that the olive was first cultivated in
Palestine. Renfrew assumes that the olive was domesticated in the Aegean rather
than in the Levant. He states that the significance of olive as a food must
have been fully appreciated, as the Linear A and B Tablets document transfer of
olive oil as well as olives, for both of which there are ideograms.22 It would be interesting to know whether the olives were used exclusively for
oil, not yet pressed, or for pickling and for oil.

that olive cultivation occurred in Greek lands in the Early Bronze Age (circa
1000 B.C.), Boardman believes that the olive was not of prime importance at
that time.23 He points out that some transitional types of olive stones from Crete, between
wild and cultivated types of olives, raise the question of whether cultivation
was achieved either first or perhaps independently in Crete.

importance of the olive in the Aegean is discussed by Cotterell.24 After 6000 B.C., hunting and gathering were followed by sedentary agriculture.
In southern Thessaly, at its height after 4800 B.C., farmers in Sesklo planted
wheat, barley, millet, peas, vetch, almonds, figs, pears, and acorns. They also
took advantage of wild vines and olives growing in the region. After the third
millennium B.C., there was a southward shift of population in Thessaly, and the
grain and livestock farming was supplemented by the cultivation of olive and
the vine. The approximately thirty years required for full productivity of
the olive and its uneven yield from season to season imply ordered social
conditions. The Greeks chose the olive branch as a symbol of peace, and olive
oil soon became a staple commodity. Its three chief uses were cooking, cleaning
the body, and lighting. The domestication of olive was a decisive step as it
altered the pattern of land use.

addition to archaeological evidence, as well as clues from myths and legends,
historical sources suggest that olives have been cultivated from the earliest
periods of Western history. Sturtevant cites evidence from several historical
sources: Homer’s mention of green olives in the garden of Alcinous and Laertes,
brought by Cecrops, the founder of Athens; the cultivated tree distinguished
from the wild by Dioscorides; the olive first being brought to Italy at the
time of Pliny and carried over the Alps to Gaul and Spain; and, at the time of Cato,
the Romans’s acquaintance with nine kinds of olives, and later twelve kinds at
the time of Pliny.25

recent popular article,26 however, raises questions regarding the eastern Mediterranean Basin being the
only source of the cultivated olive. The article reports on the finding of an
olive pit in Southeastern Spain in a rock shelter known as Cova de la Flaguera in which a two-fifths inch long single olive
seed, typical of domestic olives, was discovered. The seed was charred
indicating that there was human intervention and it was carbon dated between
6430 and 6090 B.C. This predates the Bronze Age by more than two thousand years and
puts it into the Old Stone Age with artifacts of hunter‑gatherers. If it
is a domesticated, rather than a wild olive, it has significant implications
concerning the emergence of agriculture. The earliest other credible evidence
for agriculture in Spain dates from about 5000 B.C. The presence of a single
olive seed allows archaeologists to wonder whether agriculture arose
indigenously in Spain, rather than being imported from the Middle East.
Additional studies should help to answer this question.

Genetic Evidences of the Early
History and Domestication of the Olive

examined the beginnings of olive cultivation from a geographical perspective,
we now turn our attention to the evidence of the cultivated olive’s genetic
beginnings. “Olea europaea is
the only Mediterranean representative of the genus Olea L., which includes 35–40 species . . . [in] tropical
and southern Africa (the main center), south Asia, . . . eastern Australia, New
Caledonia and New Zealand.”27 Several wild species in these areas are taxonomically close to O. europaea and are probably
interfertile, or partly interfertile, but are separated geographically from
those other species. The African and south Asian wild olives are adapted to
strikingly different climatic regimes. Neither wild nor domesticated forms of O. europaea extend beyond the
Mediterranean region and reproductively they are well separated from other wild
members of the genus Olea.28

are many theories on the genetic origins of the cultivated olive. Turrill
suggests three possibilities.29 The first is domestication of the cultivated olive from the oleaster or “wild olive” (Olea europaea var. oleaster), which has substantial genetic variability and many
characteristics that are similar to the cultivated olive (Olea europaea L.). As part of this first possibility, Turrill
suggests that oleaster plants were
derived from cultivated plants. Cultivated plants require human care to
maintain their cultivated characteristics because most saplings raised from the
seeds of a cultivated plant resemble wild forms in their characteristics and
are useless in terms of fruit quality.30 The second possibility is that the Olea
, presently grown in Madagascar and tropical Africa, may be the
ancestor of the cultivated olive.31 Turrill’s third suggestion is that Olea
, native to the Saharan mountains, is the immediate ancestral
stock that formerly had a much wider and more continuous range than at present.32 It may have been a link between O.
and O. europaea.

views are not shared by the geneticist Simmonds, who refers to the olive as one
of the relics of the tropical mid‑Tertiary flora (fifteen to eleven million years
ago) of the Mediterranean, the only member of the genus Olea to have survived from that age in the area.33 He mentions that the parent species of the cultivated olive are not known but
are generally inferred to have been two species, one a form with narrow leaves
with a golden underside and the other which contributed to the oily pulp
character, a “proto‑Olea
of Ciferri, which became extinct. The crop probably originated as a hybrid
swarm in the mountains of the eastern Mediterranean: the Taurus, Amanus, and
Lebanese mountains, as far as High Galilee. The great diversity of stone types,
dated to the fourth millennium B.C., also suggests a hybrid origin.34 Thus, wild oleaster, in light of
evolutionary views, must be regarded as an escaped variety rather than being
truly wild, or in any sense ancestral to the cultivated forms.

the other hand, Zohary and Spiegel‑Roy suggest that the wild olive did
not escape from cultivation because the oleaster olives occupy niches in many areas along the shores of the Mediterranean
not disturbed by cultivation.35 They thrive as an important constituent of garigue (low open scrubland
characterized by shrubs, low trees, and bunchgrass) and the thick scrubby
underbrush of maquis evergreen plant associations. They “are particularly
common in the lower‑latitude belt (0–300 m) along the Aegean
shores, the coast of southern Turkey, and the maritime belt of Lebanon and
Israel, as far south as Mount Carmel.”36 They are also present in northeastern Anatolia, in Cyrenaic, Tunisia, Algeria,
Morocco, southern Spain, southern Italy, and many other western Mediterranean
countries. In these areas they grow in association with oaks, pistachios, and
other trees and shrubs and are considered genuinely wild. However, they also
frequently grow at the edges of fields and in abandoned terrace cultivation.
Since they are used extensively as rootstock material, they frequently occur in
modern times as escapees.

the eastern Mediterranean, the olive moved westward and generated a secondary
center of diversity in the Aegean area and perhaps a tertiary center farther
west in southern Italy and Tunisia. In the Aegean center the plants produced
large‑fruited types which occurred only as “impurities” in the
Near Eastern populations. The Tunisian populations in the tertiary center were likely influenced by the local wild forms.37

there are many species of olive,38 there is only one wild olive which is closely related to Olea europaea, the domesticated fruit tree grown for olive
production. The wild olive, O. oleaster, and the domesticated forms are
present in the same general geographic and climatic belt. Wild olives are
distributed over the entire Mediterranean basin and have a small fruit size and
low oil content. In some areas they are extensively used as rootstock material
onto which cultivated varieties are grafted. Since the cultivated varieties
grow in the same geographic and climatic zones, there is parallel variation in
wild forms and trees under cultivation. The two forms are loosely
interconnected genetically and, in many respects, comprise a single wild and
cultivated species complex, which agrees with the archaeological data. Thus,
based upon combined evidence, Zohary and Spiegel‑Roy conclude that the
East Mediterranean wild oleaster olives are “stock from which the
cultivated olive was derived, and the Levant is the place where the olive was probably first brought into cultivation.”39

there is a tendency for domesticates to revert to a “wild” state
unless they are given constant attention, and since the wild oleaster olives “are self‑incompatible
and reproduce entirely from seed,”40 we favor the assumption that cultivated or domesticated olives are selections
from wild forms. As is characteristic of cross‑pollinated plants, both
cultivated and wild forms of olive are extremely heterozygous. When their seeds
are planted the progeny segregate genetically, yielding very diverse progeny.
Thus, as would be expected, seedlings raised from a cultivated plant resemble
wild forms in their morphology and are useless in terms of fruit quality. As a
result, propagation from seed is impractical in olive culture.41 In order to select and stabilize useful varieties, the grower must use clonal
propagation. Saplings must be grown from desirable cuttings by vegetative
rather than sexual propagation. In this way the saplings have the same genetic
makeup as the tree from which they are taken. 

Botanical Characteristics and

are evergreen trees with gray‑green foliage. The flowers are produced on
a cluster (“inflorescence”) of about fifteen flowers, each of which arise
in leaf axils of shoots produced the previous season. Most olive flowers have
anthers, the male portion of the flower that produces pollen, and pistils, the
female portion that produces fruit. However, the pistils may abort leaving
non-fruiting trees. The olive is wind‑pollinated, and trees of most
cultivars set some fruit with their own pollen. Fruit set is normally heavier
with cross‑pollination.

fruit is a drupe (a stone fruit such as peaches and apricots). The pericarp,
stone, and seed proper all contain oil in different proportions.42 In some years the environmental conditions result in heavy fruit set so fruit
thinning is necessary to increase the size of the fruit. Without thinning, fruit
may be small, maturity is delayed, and normally the trees will not bloom the
next year, resulting in alternate year bearing.43 Among the oil crops, the olive is unique in that the oil is present primarily
in the flesh of the fruit rather than the seed. About ninety percent of the
world’s olive production is for oil.44

The oleaster (wild) olives have smaller
fruits, and they usually have spinescent lower branches. “The fruits have a
less fleshy mesocarp [middle layer of the pericarp] and contain less oil.”45 The stones are not considerably smaller than in domesticated olives,46 which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether stones found in archaeological
sites are from wild or cultivated olives. However, the presence or absence of
wild olives currently growing in areas of archaeological interest is a relevant

olives, including the large fruited cultivars that have been examined, are
almost all diploid with 2n = 46
chromosomes. Occasional tetraploids and triploids have been reported, and one
case of polysomaty (2n = 55) was
reported. The chromosomes of related wild species apparently have not been

trees live for hundreds of years and grow in very few areas of the world. They
generally require a Mediterranean climate of moderately cold winters and long,
hot summers with low humidity. Olives grown for commercial production grow best
between latitudes from thirty to forty-five degrees, both north and south, in areas free from
severe winters. Most cultivars require at least two months of mild winter
chilling, between 1.5 C (34.5 F) and 15.5 C (60 F), for flower initiation to
occur. “Trees are killed to the ground by temperatures below ‑11 C
(12 F).”49 Olive trees grow well in a range of soil conditions from rocky hillsides with
rocky soil to deep fertile valley soils ranging from acid to alkaline
conditions. They tolerate considerable salinity and boron, but do not withstand
poorly drained soils. They die if water stands around the roots for a few

olive trees may live hundreds of years, the life span of permanent plantations
is not as important as before. Economic and social situations, as well as
consumer preferences, are changing rapidly. There is now little incentive to
limit short‑term productive capacity in favor of longevity even though
olive groves do not attain full production until after the seventh or eighth
year. This non‑productive period discourages the planting of olive trees
in fertile areas that can be used for other more profitable crops, including
other tree crops. Formerly, groves were planted by parents for the profit of
their children.

in past and modern times, grove density has been as low as ten meters or more
between trees, or a density of one hundred trees or less per hectare (2.47 acres). With
traditional spacing, a large proportion of the ground remains uncovered and
unused for many years and this increases the costs of deep‑ploughing. In
modern times it is not unusual for farmers to increase significantly the
density of plantations. New groves with more than one thousand plants per hectare are

the raising of new olive plants, most olives can be propagated very easily by
one of several methods. One of the most common ways is by placing hardwood
cuttings in nursery rows or by rooting young softwood cuttings in mist
propagating beds. While mycorrhizae (a mutually beneficial association in which
the mycelium of a fungus invades the roots of a seed plant) may be important in
production of some fruits, very little emphasis has been placed upon
mycorrhizae associations with olive roots.52

or budding is also used to propagate olives. Although this can be done in many
ways, it is common to top‑work older trees to change cultivars. This is
done by bark grafting, which brings cambial layers (regions of active cell
division) into contact so the tissues of the stock and scion can grow together.53

method is the use of uovoli (which
means “little eggs” in Italian). These are called “ovules”
in English and are protuberances formed in the parts of the plant where build‑up
of sap or slowing down of sap circulation occurs, normally at the base of the
trunk. There is often hypernutrition which causes cambial cells, from which
roots and stems arise, to form aerial sprouts and adventitious roots. If they
are rooted in nurseries, they can be transplanted directly or divided after
roots and sprouts appear. The ovules may be left attached to the tree for
propagation. This may be necessary when old trees are cut down or damaged by
frost, or some other factor. The base of the tree is covered with a light layer
of soil to stimulate root production.

may also be used, which stimulates sucker formation. This consists of strongly
binding the base of the tree with one or two turns of wire. Alternatively, a
strip of bark can be cut out around the tree. The suckers which form may be
taken to a nursery for further development or they can be planted directly.54

wood is extremely plastic and has great powers of regeneration. Growers in
Andalusia, for example, practice another method for establishing new olive
groves by using pieces of olive wood six to twelve centimeters by three meters. The pieces of wood
are planted at the end of winter after pruning. Where the climate is hot and
dry they are planted early to induce rooting before it becomes too hot. The
buried cuttings are banked with a conical hill of soil leaving only twenty to thirty centimeters of the cutting exposed. The cuttings from thick branches almost always form
new trees, which are known for being vigorous and productive.55

olive trees are also developed by combining desired rootstocks with desired
branches. Most fruit and nut trees consist of the above-ground fruiting portion
and the below-ground rooting portion. The two parts are often joined together
by budding or grafting, normally when the plants are young in the nursery.
Rootstocks are generally selected because the growers are concerned about tree
size (some root stocks cause “dwarfing”), resistance to soil‑borne
organisms (some rootstocks make it possible to grow plants in pest- or disease-infested soil), resistance to unfavorable soil conditions (rootstocks may be
more tolerant to poorly drained, heavy, or saline soils), and resistance to low
winter temperatures (cold winters may be tolerated better on some rootstocks
than others).56 These procedures were used anciently and continue to be used in modern times.57

the trees are propagated by using one of the previously mentioned methods, the young
trees should be pruned carefully and sparingly. Care should be taken to
establish a central trunk with four or five well‑spaced scaffold
branches. Since mature trees bear fruit laterally on shoots produced the
previous summer, moderate annual pruning is required to stimulate productive
shoots. Nonproductive branches that are diseased, broken, or old, should be
removed. When old trees lose vigor and production drops, heavy pruning may
stimulate new growth that will recover the fruit yield.58

Fruit and Oil

olives are often divided into two main types: oil varieties, which contain
twenty to thirty percent oil in ripe fruits; and less oily varieties used for fruit. Table olives
are harvested in the autumn when the fruits are green to straw in color. The
raw olives contain a glucoside which makes them very bitter until they are
treated with a dilute alkaline solution to remove the glucoside. If olives are
exposed to air during the treatment, the oxidation of phenolic compounds causes
the olives to turn black. If they are kept submerged during the treatment they
remain green.

different treatment is used for Spanish‑green fermented olives, primarily
in the Mediterranean countries. The fruits are picked green, then subjected to a lye
treatment to remove the bitterness. They are then thoroughly washed and are
transferred to barrels containing a salimeter brine solution where a six- to
eight-month lactic acid fermentation process transforms them to a product that
can be sealed in salimeter brine for storage and consumption.59

oil is the desired product, the fruit is left on the tree until midwinter and
is normally black when harvested. The olives are then washed and ground in
crushers, creating an olive paste, which is then pressed in hydraulic presses.
The oil is then allowed to rise to the top, drawn off, and is washed with warm
water to remove the bitterness. Centrifugation is used to remove the water,
leaving the final product a clear, golden oil.60

of the different types of cultivars used for olive production is generally
based upon the characteristics of the fruit. A cultivar is a “cultivated
variety” which has been given an international designation based on its clearly
distinguishable characteristics. Whether reproduced sexually or asexually, a
tree of a cultivated variety retains its distinguishing characteristics
throughout its life.61 The cultivated olive, O. europaea,
has a large number of cultivars, which normally have vernacular names. Several
classifications have been proposed, but the classification is, as mentioned,
usually based on the general shape and taste of the fruit. The fact that there
is great plasticity in olive foliage makes it difficult to use foliage factors
as constant characters for purposes of classification;62 since the fruit is the primary economic reason for olive production, fruit
characteristics are usually used for classification. As is the case with most
domesticated plants, the domesticated olive has great diversity of forms, which
have been developed for diverse climatic and geographic niches.

olive‑producing countries have their own local cultivars, many of which
have been grown for centuries.”63 Examples of important oil cultivars are Picual, Frantojo, Cornicabra, Chemlali,
and Souri. Important table olive cultivars are Manzanillo, Sevillano, Ascolano,
Conservolia, Calamata, and Galega.64

Pathogens, Pests, and Nutrition

are susceptible to an array of insect and other disease pests. In the Mediterranean
countries the “olive fly” (Dacus
) and the “olive moth” (Prays
) are the most common insects, but they are not present in
California. Another insect, “black scale” (Saissetia oleae) can be severe in most olive‑producing
countries. A bacterium (Pseudomonas savastanoi) causes galls that cut off
the supply of sap to the ends of the branches (“apical zones”). One
common fungus, “verticillium wilt” (Verticillium spp.), affects the roots, and another, “peacock
spot” or “peacock eye” (Cycloconium
), can defoliate trees.65

examples of olive diseases caused by fungi, which are discussed by Azpeitia,
include “olive shield” caused by Macrophoma dalmatica.66 This fungus primarily attacks a section of the individual fruit, but less commonly
it may cause a diffuse infection over the whole olive, causing it to dry and
wrinkle with a loss of fruit weight and increased acidity in the oil. More
commonly it causes an isolated infected zone, which looks like an oil stain or “shield.”
The infected zone is depressed from one to two millimeters, making the fruit unfit for use as
a table olive. Another fungal disease called “soapy olives” is caused
by Gloeosporium olivarum and may
attack the wood, leaves, and fruit, the latter being the most common target. It
dehydrates the fruit, increases acidity of the oils, and causes premature fruit
to fall. A fungal disease of less concern is sooty mold, caused by Capnodium elaeophilum. This disease
causes damage by covering the leaf and keeping out light, thus impeding the
development of chlorophyll, which in turn reduces production.

trees also suffer from disorders that are nonparasitic.67 Some of the most important disorders in the Mediterranean basin are caused by (1) climatic factors, including late frosts—particularly in areas that are
ecologically marginal for olive tree production, (2) excess water in the root
zone, (3) lack of soil water, particularly with non‑irrigated olives, and
(4) sharp changes in humidity and temperature, which causes a physiological
disorder resulting in dehydration of the tip of the fruit (“apical zone”)

addition to controlling pests, fungi, and nonparasitic disorders, it is
important to provide proper nutrition for the olive if production is to be
successful. Chemical analysis of soil, analysis of leaf tissue (called “foliar
diagnosis”), and systematic experimentation permitting the comparison of
yields from fertilized crops with those where one or more elements have been
withheld or reduced, make it possible to determine what nutrient supplements
should be used to increase olive production. Proper nutrition can also help to
reduce the problem of alternate year bearing.

principal fertilizing elements for olive production are discussed by Llamas.68 He stresses the importance of nitrogenous fertilizers, which can be applied in
various forms, and points out that all organic fertilizers contain some
nitrogen. In modern olive production, mineral fertilizers are more commonly
found as nitrate, as ammonia, or as a mixture of the two. Nitrogen may also be
supplied as urea or calcium cyanamid. Llamas also discusses the use and
importance of soluble phosphates, partially soluble phosphates, and “natural”
or “rock” phosphates to supply phosphorus to plants, as well as the
need for potassium fertilizers. The most common nutrients used as supplements
for cultivated plants worldwide are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

materials play a number of important roles in olive fertilization. They provide
cohesion in loose sandy soils and improve the texture of heavy soils; they help
to stabilize the pH, increase the capacity of ion exchange in the soil, aid in
retention of humidity, and reduce excessive runoff in hilly areas. Organic
materials in the soil also activate microorganisms that aid in the
assimilation of nutritive elements by the roots. For all of these reasons,
organic materials are a fundamental factor in fertilizer programs.

of organic materials, either in the form of natural or artificial manure,
should be done in the autumn and be buried as deeply as possible. In dry
climates, five to ten tons per hectare should be applied every one or two
years. In more humid climates the application should be every three or four
years. The scarcity of manure has obliged olive growers to seek other types of
organic material. Where there is sufficient rainfall for decomposition of
organic material, green manuring is used. This involves burying winter legume
crops in the spring as compost. This procedure can supply a great quantity of
easily decomposable organic material.69

elements are also important in olive production. They consist of minerals and
chemicals used in minute quantities by the plant and are important for proper
plant growth and fruit production. There are ever-increasing deficiencies of
trace elements because of the lack of manure, the use of increasingly purified
chemical fertilizers, and the increased extraction of soil resources in
intensive olive‑growing areas. For olives one of the most important trace
elements that needs to be supplied is boron. Boron deficiency can be easily
corrected by the application of borax to the soil or leaves. Sulphur
deficiencies can be partially corrected by sulphur dusting two or three weeks
before flowering.70

Botanical Anomalies or Unusual
Circumstances in Jacob 5

all of the allegory in Jacob 5 corresponds exceptionally well with both ancient
and modern botanical principles and horticultural practices. It is hard to
imagine that its author was not personally familiar with the minute details and
practices involved in raising good olives in a Mediterranean climate. However,
there appear to be three points in the allegory that may strike a modern
botanist as unusual. While these anomalies or unusual circumstances are
relatively minor from a scientific standpoint, they represent important
metaphorical points of the allegory that were apparently necessary to portray
Zenos’s intended meaning. Such anomalies are often introduced in allegories,
partly to remind the audience that the allegory represents a reality beyond its
constituted parts and also to cause the audience to remember the extraordinary
powers that impel the depicted events. As another example of a similar
phenomenon, the parable of the Prodigal Son dramatically begins with the
shocking circumstance of a son requesting the distribution of his inheritance
while his father is still alive; the Jewish law of Jesus’ day, in all
likelihood, would not have permitted a son to accelerate his future interest in
his father’s estate.

Botanical aspects of the Jacob 5 allegory are briefly discussed by Hess,
indicating one possible anomaly.71 “Wild” branches do not naturally yield “tame” fruit—in
other words a grafted olive branch keeps its genetic constitution regardless of
what type of olive tree it is grafted onto. When branches of a wild olive tree
are grafted onto a tame olive tree (Jacob 5:10), we assume that this is
analogous to grafting a wild species (O.
) onto a domesticated species (O.
). If this assumption is correct we would not expect to obtain the
desirable large-fruited tame olives from the small‑fruited wild olive
branches. The tame olives are selected for their desirable characteristics and
each cell of any branch will be genetically the same as the tree from which it
was cut. Thus, the grafted wild olive branch has an inferior genetic
constitution for fruit size, and other characteristics, causing all of the
fruit on the wild branch to be small and undesirable. Cultural practices
involving proper nutrition, elimination of diseased parts, proper pruning,
irrigation, and so forth, will not cause wild fruit to attain the same size and
desirable characteristics as tame fruit, particularly if compared with trees or
branches that are genetically tame and are properly tended. If wild trees are
carefully tended, the fruit becomes larger than normal, but it would still have
the same genetic characteristics of the wild species. The manner in which the
servant and Lord of the vineyard speak of the olive tree in verses 16–18
implies that they were pleasantly surprised that the wild branches bore fruit “like
unto the natural fruit”: “Behold, look here; behold the tree.”
This result would not normally have been expected without divine assistance or
extraordinary conditions.

when the tame tree produced much fruit (Jacob 5:23) and then became corrupt
(Jacob 5:39), this seems to represent a fundamental botanical change. The text
states that the natural tree “had become wild” (Jacob 5:55). If this
refers to a change in the actual nature of the fruit, this could only be
accomplished by grafting, for one cannot obtain wild fruit from a tame tree in
the natural course of events. While a domesticated tree does not become wild in
the sense of changing species, the fruit set may become too light or too heavy,
or pests or disease may damage the crop left unattended. With lack of care the
fruit would be small and unusable like wild fruit, but it would still have the
other desirable genetic characteristics for which it was originally selected
and cloned. By asserting that the natural fruit became wild, the allegory
emphasizes the serious and extensive nature of changes that result from
corruption within the House of Israel.

Although it would also have been unusual for an olive grower to graft wild
branches onto a tame tree, circumstances exist when it makes good sense to do
so. Due to the vigor and disease resistance of certain wild species, grafting
wild stock onto a tame tree can strengthen and revitalize a distressed plant
(see question thirty-nine, later in this chapter). Zenos’s allegory portrays the Lord of the vineyard as
somewhat exasperated, trying all available options to revive his old, beloved
tree, including the extraordinary step of experimenting to see if any good
might come by grafting wild stock onto the branches of the natural tree.
Although doing this would have been an unconventional, perhaps even desperate
measure, the Lord will spare no effort to obtain again the desired fruit from
his choice plant.

It might also seem odd that one of the trees planted in poor soil should
produce good fruit. One of the branches was planted in “a poor spot of ground
. . . poorer than the first” (Jacob 5:22–23). Nevertheless, this
plant thrived. Although olives sometimes do well in poor soils because of their
long maturing period and ability to tolerate considerable salinity, boron,
etc., it is only with much attention to cultural practices that productive
trees will grow on poor soil. When all of the important cultural factors are
carefully optimized, olive trees will grow and produce a crop on poor soil.
Accordingly, the unusual poorness of the soil in this part of the allegory
draws attention to the extraordinary care and power of the Lord of the vineyard.
The production of good fruit by the plant under these circumstances is
attributable exclusively to the fact that the Lord had “nourished it this
long time” (Jacob 5:23).


foregoing general principles apply to specific elements in Zenos’s allegory of
the olive tree as follows:

Olives in General

What is a “tame olive tree” (Jacob 5:3)?

term “tame” is synonymous with cultivated, “natural,”
domesticated, and “good.” As indicated by Pansiot and Rebour, “The
first agricultural peoples selected the best of [the] wild varieties and from
these initial selections and many subsequent ones, . . . present varieties
[(cultivars) were] derived.”72 Only one species, Olea europaea L., commonly called the European Olive,
is used for fruit and oil production today. Jacob 5:3 sketches the typical
lifespan of such a tree: it was taken and planted and nourished, it grew, waxed
old, and began to decay.

What is a “wild olive tree” (Jacob 5:7, 9, 10, 17, 18, 34, 46)?

term “wild” is synonymous with bad, nondomesticated, and weed.
Although there are many species of wild olive, the “wild” or nondomesticated
subspecies Olea europaea oleaster is
the one normally referred to as wild in the olive-growing areas around the
Mediterranean. It is derived from seed and differs greatly from plant to plant,
displaying markedly varying characteristics. However, it generally has thorns
and small leaves and produces small drupes (fruits). Some oleasters are large trees and some are only of moderate size. The
small tree types can be used as rootstocks to dwarf cultivated olive trees,
which is important today since increased planting density is now common.73

types of both cultivated and wild olives are classified under the designation O. europaea sativa. The wild forms are
found in natural olive groves and have characteristics much like cultivated
varieties. It has been suggested that these wild trees come from seeds “of
cultivated varieties disseminated by birds.”74 Seedlings raised from any mother tree segregate genetically, manifesting
variation for numerous traits including size, shape, and palatability of the

How do “tame” olive trees revert to having “wild”
characteristics (Jacob 5:46)?

Zenos’s allegory, the tame tree is twice portrayed as changing to produce bad
fruit or as becoming wild: “It hath brought forth much fruit, and there is
none of it which is good. And behold there are all kinds of bad fruit”
(Jacob 5:32); “the fruit of the natural branches had become corrupt”
(Jacob 5:39); “they took from the natural tree which had become wild”
(Jacob 5:55); “they also took of the natural trees which had become wild”
(Jacob 5:56). In saying that the natural tree became wild, it appears that the
allegory may have reference only to a change in the quality of the tree’s fruit
and not its genetic composition, since it is not likely that anyone in Zenos’s
day understood the necessary principles of genetics that remained undiscovered
until the latter part of the nineteenth century. As discussed earlier, a specific
“tame” tree will not genetically change to a “wild” tree.
However, a tame tree can produce inferior (bad or wild-like) fruit and will
revert to manifesting wild characteristics if it is not properly cultivated.

order to maintain production, maximize fruit size, and maintain the health of
cultivated or domesticated trees, it is necessary to attend to proper pruning,
adequate nutrition, thinning, and when necessary, controlling pathogens and
pests. When this is done, the fruit quality and size is maximized. However, if
domesticated trees are neglected, there is a tendency for the fruit quality and
production to be inferior and, as is stated by Hillhouse: “Fruit trees and
flowers lose in reproduction, the properties which they had acquired by
culture, and tend anew to the state of nature.”75 One of the characteristics of domesticated plants is that if they are properly
cared for the size and quality of the fruit will be significantly better than
on either wild or unattended domesticated trees.

the main factor mentioned in the allegory as the cause of fruit loss was
cultural rather than genetic, leading to the withering of good branches. Good
branches were grafted onto trees in the nethermost part of the vineyard (Jacob
5:8), but the wild parts of those trees eventually overran them, “even
that the [grafted natural] branch had withered away and died” (Jacob 5:40;
see also Jacob 5:43), “because I plucked not the [wild] branches thereof
and cast them into the fire” (Jacob 5:45).

trees have been genetically selected to produce well under a grower’s carefully
applied cultural practices. If both “tame” and “wild” trees
receive the same cultural attention by growers, the “tame” or
domesticated tree will, almost without exception, yield fruit of superior
quality and size. On the other hand, if the same trees, both “tame”
and “wild,” are left without attention, the “wild” is more
likely to survive, even though the fruit will be genetically inferior.

trees, with the desired genetic characteristics, must be propagated
vegetatively, as opposed to propagation by seed, to maintain the superior
genetic constitution. In this way all of the offspring from a clone will
genetically be the same. Thus, all of the plants in a grove can be genetically
identical, which can cause pollination problems because of potential genetic
self‑incompatibility. However, if seeds from these plants are used to
propagate seedlings, the new plants may be of the wild type, as is pointed out
by Bioletti and Colby,76 Renfrew,77 and Hillhouse.78 With seed production, the chromosomes of two plants combine, causing segregation
of the genetic characteristics resulting in genetic diversity. Because of this
genetic diversity, if the seeds produced on one tree during one season were all
grown, rarely would one of the new plants have all the desirable
characteristics of the “mother” plant.

How do “wild” trees bring forth fruit “like unto the natural
fruit” (Jacob 5:17)?

a wild olive graft does not genetically become tame. Each cell of any branch
will remain genetically the same as the parent tree from which it was cut.
Cultural practices involving increased nutrition, proper pruning, irrigation,
etc., will not cause wild fruit to attain the same size and desirable
characteristics as tame fruit, but some improvement might be shown.

one occasion Zenos states that the wild branches began to produce good fruit.
But the Lord of the vineyard attributes this solely to the strength of the
roots, not to any constitutional change: “Behold, the branches of the wild
tree have taken hold of the moisture of the root thereof, that the root thereof
hath brought forth much strength; and because of the much strength of the root
thereof, the wild branches have brought forth tame fruit” (Jacob 5:18).
Later the Lord will remember that because of the strength of the roots, “they
have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit” (Jacob
5:36). Not only do the servant and Lord of the vineyard seem somewhat surprised
that the wild branches have borne fruit that is “like unto the natural
fruit” (Jacob 5:17), but this singular event did not last long. In time
the wild branches completely overran the roots and the tree became worthless
(Jacob 5:37).


How adaptable are olive trees to different locations and environments?

depicts olive branches being moved to various parts of the vineyard; yet
conditions must not vary too widely for the olive to thrive. The olive is best
adapted to the Mediterranean climate with warm, wet winters and hot, dry
summers. Although winter chilling is required,79 olives will not tolerate an average temperature below 1.3°C (34°F) for the
coldest winter month. They will grow up to 550 meters above sea level, with
some cultivars capable of existing up to 600 meters. Olives thrive best on “calcareous
schistose sandy or even rocky soils, in well‑drained situations.”80 Warren states that “the cultivated olive is the only tree to maintain a
high growth rate on arid south aspects,” where as a young tree it grows
several millimeters in thickness annually and produces a crop at the same time.81

olive cultivars grow best in localized areas and there is risk in planting a
specific cultivar outside its cultivation zone. There are many instances of
good local cultivars “which have never been successful outside their own
microclimate.”82 Accordingly, the Nephites may have realized more accutely by Zenos’s allegory
the risks inherent in their travel to a distant land. However, there are some
cultivars, called international varieties or cultivars, with a known
adaptability to many environments. These cultivars are the best choice when it
comes to adjusting to new environmental conditions.83

How many trees make up a vineyard (grove)?

densities vary from about seventeen to one thousand trees per hectare (2.47 acres).84 Anciently it was common to plant well spaced trees so there would be sufficient
room for trees to grow large. Planting was intended for the next generation
because nearly forty years were required for trees to mature. Now trees are
brought into production more quickly and growers do not maintain plantations in
production for as long. Better cultivars are developed in fewer years, consumer
preference changes frequently, and there are modern methods to bring plantations
into production much more quickly than in ancient times.

Do olives need to be in a vineyard for pollination or other ecological reasons?

varieties of olive are self-incompatible (self‑sterile) to a greater or
lesser degree, so compatible pollinators are normally used. Since the pollen is
wind‑borne, about ten percent of the trees need to be pollinators. If
growers do not have knowledge about the potential for self incompatibility in a
cultivar, it is wise to plant two or three cultivars together.85 There are also mutations in some cultivars of olive, which cause the breakdown
of self‑incompatibility resulting in cultivars which are self‑pollinating.86 Although Zenos focuses his attention on the main tree in the vineyard, the Lord
is clearly interested in the productivity of all his “trees” (Jacob
5:60, 74).

Regarding the “nethermost” part of the vineyard (Jacob 5:13, 14, 19,
38, 39, 52), do olives grow better or worse at lower locations?

today refers to lower, furthest down, or inferior. Verse 14 says the Lord of
the vineyard “hid the natural branches of the tame olive‑tree in the
nethermost parts of the vineyard, some in one and some in another,”
knowing that in some cases this was “a poor spot of ground” (Jacob
5:22). Olive trees do not prefer either very low or very elevated situations,
but rather they are best adapted to gentle declivities.87 In some orchards, lower elevations receive more moisture, but if the choicest
place was originally selected for the main tree in Jacob 5 higher up in the
orchard, then places lower in elevation would be less desirable.


Do olives produce well on poor spots of ground (Jacob 5:21–23)?

of its underground root system, olives can obtain water and nutrients in poor
soils that receive little rainfall, provided the physical properties of the
soil meet certain minimum standards and that the volume of soil is sufficient
for each tree.88 The olive needs sufficient, but not too much, water and is otherwise not
particularly affected by soil variations. It is a “rich plant for poor
soils,” provided adequate nutrients are supplied. Even exceptionally poor
soils can be used for the olive, but the lower the nutrient supply in the soil,
the greater the volume of soil necessary. On poor soil, wide spacing is
essential. The poorness of the site must be compensated by intensive cultural
technique, as is reflected in Jacob 5:22–23. Negligence of the least detail may
jeopardize the trees. Olives need a light, well‑drained soil and will not
grow well on heavy or poorly‑drained soils.89 They prefer loose, calcareous, fertile land mingled with stones.90

What does it take to make olive trees thrive when planted in poor quality soil
(Jacob 5:20–23)?

factors are necessary for an olive tree to produce well, including sufficient
water, proper drainage, availability of nutrients for the roots, sufficient
tilth to add nutrients, careful attention to pruning, and favorable
concentration of salts in the soil. Bioletti and Colby state that it is a
mistake to suppose that olives will yield profitable crops in poor soils.91 Poor soils must be well fertilized to insure good growth of young trees and
good crops with old trees. Pansiot and Rebour state that “at times
prosperous groves can be established under difficult conditions because the
olive has no equal as a tree in its ability to thrive on poor sites.”92 In such cases, the poorness of the site must be compensated by intensive
cultural management.

How does one select a site to start a new olive tree (Jacob 5:13)?

mentions briefly the fact that the Lord prepared a good spot of ground for the
last branch that was planted in the nethermost part of the vineyard: “And
thou beheldest that I also cut down that which cumbered this spot of ground,
that I might plant this tree in the stead thereof” (Jacob 5:44). Pansiot
and Rebour discuss factors that are important today when setting new
plantations.93 They include (1) research into and propagation of cultivars, marking of parent
trees and grafting on seedling olives, (2) careful choice of planting sites
determined by a study of conditions, (3) erosion control, particularly
with contour planting, (4) planting density, as determined by availability of
water and nutrients, (5) careful preparation of the site by plowing or subsoiling,
except in sandy soils, and (6) tree shaping to give trees a low form.

planting an olive grove, the local technical, economic, financial, and social
conditions must be carefully studied. It will take six years to obtain a crop
after the trees are planted, and they will not be in full production for about
forty years. A map of the plantation must be made, especially if irrigation is
used. It should show the contours before and after leveling, tree sites, roads,
irrigation channels, sluices, and so forth. For at least six years there will be no
income, so a planting contract should be made between the landlord and the


What characteristics indicate “that the roots are good” (Jacob 5:36)?

first, the Lord of the vineyard appears unsure of the cause of decay in his
beloved olive tree. He grafts wild branches into the tame rootstock hoping to
revitalize it, and he grafts tame shoots onto other trees in case the tame root
dies (Jacob 5:7–8). After seeing how the wild grafts flourish, he knows that
the roots of his beloved tree are good (Jacob 5:36) and thus resolves to keep
trying, eventually deciding to clear out the wild branches that had been
grafted in and to graft back in the original stock from the trees in the
nethermost parts of the vineyard (Jacob 5:52).

root structure is vital to the productivity of the olive and a valuable
resource to be preserved and cared for (Jacob 5:11, 59). Up to the third or
fourth year, olive roots grow vertically downward after which these original
roots are replaced by another underground root system developed from nodules,
which form on the base of the trunk just below the soil surface. The nature of
the roots can be judged in part by the soil which helps to determine the manner
of root growth. Heavy, poorly aerated soil causes a network of fine roots to
form near the surface. Sandy soils are easy for roots to penetrate, so the root
system becomes much more extensive.95 One can also know whether the roots are good by the age of the tree and by
examining the other vital signs such as leaf size, fruit set, and fruit size.

Care and Fertilizing

Can olives be productive without day‑to‑day attention? Can they be
left on their own with only infrequent care?

depicts the Lord of the vineyard typically going away for a season and
returning after a relatively long time (Jacob 5:15, 29). While it is important
to give olive trees consistent care, they do not require constant attention.
Pansiot and Rebour call olive the Cinderella of agriculture because it only
needs care in the off‑season when other crop work is finished.96 Warren states that “in comparison [to] cereal production, only a modest
and seasonal amount of time and manpower” is needed for cultivation.97 The olive tree is called “the queen of trees” by White because it requires the
least expense for cultivation.98 The olive requires only a little seasonal attention, and it can be cultivated in
areas where cereals and pulses will not grow.99 If properly managed, olive groves only need to be worked twice or three times
in the winter and usually “one (occasionally two)” cultivations in
the summer, in addition to the usual pruning and fertilizing.100 However, seasonal pruning is time consuming and is a very important component
in maintaining a productive olive grove.

Do olive groves represent a long‑term commitment of time and money?

Lord of the vineyard often remarks: “It grieveth me that I should lose
this tree” (Jacob 5:7, 11, 13, 32, 46, 47, 51, 66), and he weeps at the
thought of losing his tree (Jacob 5:41). Zenos represents the tree as a
precious commodity and a substantial asset. It takes about two years to grow
and graft scions to rootstocks, and the plants remain in the nursery for
another three to four years. After the trees are planted it will take at least
six years to start production and about forty years for it to come into full
production.101 White states that “a tree of such slow growth represents a heavy investment
of time and labor.”102

rejuvenate a tree may also take several years. Since fruit is only borne on
second‑year shoots, it is important to insure that there is ample second‑year
growth for fruit each year. When trees grow old and are neglected, the amount
and kind of effort is very important to bring the trees back into production.
This may necessitate grafting wild, more vigorous, branches on to the old tree,
then later grafting on branches from productive cultivars to obtain good fruit
(see question 39, later in this chapter). The roots and top must be balanced (see questions 21,
22, and 35). If trees are neglected too long, it may be more practical to
burn them and start a new plantation from suckers from the roots of the burned
trees (see questions 30 and 56). If this last resort is used the trees
may not be lost, unless they had been grafted onto wild rootstocks, which would
bring forth wild growth when they regenerate.

What kinds of steps must be taken in the general care of an olive grove?

is true for domesticated crop plants in general, olive trees require consistent
seasonal attention in order to ensure good fruit production. The quality of the yield stands in direct relation to proper intelligent
care, and thus the Lord
speaks of “all the care we have taken of my vineyard” (Jacob 5:46).
Most domesticated plants have been selected to produce more and better products
when they are properly tended. If they are not tended, the products they
produce may even be inferior to wild types or they may not produce at all, with
the domesticated plants not even surviving. Domesticated plants such as maize,
wheat, and potato will not survive in nature without human assistance. Even
some domesticated weeds, selected unintentionally, which grow best in association
with the domesticated plants, fail to grow outside cultivated fields. Olive
trees are not excepted from this rule. They require specific kinds of
attention, although olive culture is not as intensive as for many other
domesticated crops. Without proper care they will cease to produce, whereas
with proper care they will produce for a very long period of time.

discusses important points relative to care for olive groves: (1)
the choice of a good natural site is important, (2) grafts should be carefully
chosen and scion wood should be only from healthy trees, (3) plants from
nurseries should be carefully inspected to ensure that they are pest-free, (4)
trees should be well spaced in plantations, (5) balanced fertilizer should be
applied at regular intervals, (6) trees should be correctly pruned to eliminate
weak branches and to let in light and air, (7) soil should be cultivated
frequently to destroy weeds, which are often alternate hosts of pests, and to
help with penetration of nutrients into root zones, (8) when rainfall is
insufficient, groves should be irrigated at the proper time and in proper
amounts, (9) a watch should be kept for the first signs of pest infestation,
which allows early local treatment, (10) the cultivated grove should be well‑aerated
to reduce pest problems and to aid in weed control, and (11) simple and
inexpensive preventive treatments such as liming trunks or coating wounds are
also important.103

How is an olive tree “nourished” (Jacob 5:3, 4, 11, 12)?

is mentioned often in Jacob 5, fertilizing an olive tree is essential to good
productivity. The amount of fertilizer used should be determined for each case
based upon soil, climate, situation of the tree, tree age, cultivar, growth, and
other factors. Fertilizer additions also need to be modified with the changes
in the vegetative and nutritional state of the tree.104 Pansiot and Rebour point out that although there are many factors, typical
annual soil fertility amendments for olive trees per hectare (2.47 acres) is from seventeen to thirty-three kilograms of nitrogen, from eight to twenty kilograms of phosphoric acid, and from twenty to fifty kilograms of potash and lime.105 They suggested that the fertilizer should be spread over the entire surface and
then uniformly incorporated into the soil. When planting in holes, 2.5 to 3
kilograms of superphosphate and 0.5 to 0.8 kilograms of potassium sulfate per
tree is normally sufficient. The upper soil layers trap phosphates and potash,
which makes it difficult to make these nutrients available to the feeder roots
once the plantation is established.106 Ground breaking (“digging about”) makes it possible to place these
fertilizers in the zone of root activity.

Why and how should olive trees be “dug about” (Jacob 5:4, 5, 11, 27,
47, 63, 64)?

simple terms, it is necessary to loosen the soil to make nutrients and moisture
available to the roots. Because the upper layers of soil tend to tie up
phosphates and potash, they often do not reach the feeder roots unless the soil
is disturbed. Deep plowing of the whole area may be advisable in most cases.
Light or sandy soils will not benefit from plowing because they are naturally
well aerated and nutrients easily penetrate them. As clay content increases the
need for deep plowing does as well. Shallow working of the soil by plowing and
harrowing also has advantages. It forms an insulating layer, which prevents
evaporation of water, increases permeability of the soil, kills weeds, and
aerates the soil, increasing nitrification and root development.107 Sometimes two plowings or more a year are advised: one in the summer to “prevent
the ground from cracking and exposing the roots to the sun, and the other in
mid‑autumn, forming ditches from the higher to the lower slopes.”108

What is meant by “dunging” the trees (Jacob 5:47, 64, 76)?

commercial fertilizers were not available, and it is likely that most farm units
had farm animals. Not only did the dung build up, necessitating removal, but
the benefits of application to crop plants were significant. It is still common
throughout the world to apply dung to improve crop production, in spite of the
extensive use of commercial fertilizers.

trees can be supplied with about 50 kilograms of well‑rotted farmyard
manure growth can be considerably advanced.”109 Organic manures are applied in the autumn so they can “decompose during
the winter and make nutrients available . . . to sustain the spring flush.”110 The manure must be incorporated into the soil as deeply as possible without
damaging the roots.111

olive yard should be manured at least once every three or four years, but
it is more beneficial to manure moderately every year. Excessive manure can
impair the quality of the fruit. Vegetable substances are preferable to animal
manures for fruit trees in general, especially for the olive and the vine.
When animal manure is used it should be tempered with other nonmanure
organic material such as seaweed or leaves and applied when the whole is
reduced to mold.112


Do branches shoot forth naturally after pruning (Jacob 5:4), and how and why
are olive trees pruned (Jacob 5:4, 27, 58, 62, 64, 69)?

of the fruit of the olive is borne on second‑year wood and the same wood
does not bear again. For this reason a new crop of shoots each year is
necessary for fruit set.113 With proper management, trees can be stimulated to produce young shoots. Zenos
refers repeatedly to the process of pruning to stimulate fruit bearing.

order to obtain fruit production each year, an olive grower must prune
annually. There are a number of pruning procedures, which include lowering,
reduction, crowning, pollarding, cutting back, and undercutting.114 Growers must carefully calculate the amount of wood to remove, requiring the
pruner to be expert at his work. In extensive olive‑growing areas, where
labor‑intensive methods cannot be applied, another type of pruning is
often used. The olive tree is set up on a permanent trunk, which is maintained
as low as possible. The principal branches of different ages are preserved only
for a short period of production and then are suppressed in favor of younger
branches. This allows production to be regulated and limits the volume of the
crown. This method of pruning is much less expensive, although pathogens are
more likely to enter cuts where large branches are removed.115 All of these pruning methods concentrate on making young and tender branches
shoot forth so there is second-year wood for fruit production.

older trees, the grower must pay attention to the leaf-wood relationship. Aged
trees have few useful leaves and few shoots large enough to bear fruit but
have lots of wood. The leaf-wood relationship, therefore, is an important index
relative to the productivity of the olive tree. Rejuvenating operations usually
involve improved cultivation, nitrogenous fertilization, and achieving proper
leaf-wood ratios, but these procedures have to be accompanied by good pruning
for high production of fruit.116

pruning is the most important factor in tree aging, whereas proper pruning is
the best corrective [measure].”117 If olive trees develop naturally, they pass through an early shrub-like period.
Later they develop into tree form, according to the conditions of the soil and
climate. With time, biennial bearing begins and the trunk becomes thicker and
irregular. Some sections of the bark become necrotic (old and diseased), and
strips of live bark maintain the connection between the active roots and the
active parts of the crown. These are common symptoms of aging. The interior of
the trunk eventually rots, which causes further decrease in production. This
usually takes place within seventy to eighty years.

most or all of the aerial part of the tree is eliminated by pruning, leaving
only the trunk, a circle of sprouts will form a short distance from the trunk.
After a year these sprouts are thinned out leaving only those that will remain
permanently. Obtaining a new tree from a sprout takes from three to eight years. The
reconstruction of an olive grove by such pruning is an ancient practice,
according to Elant.118 Cutting back is an expensive operation, and it involves intensive hand labor.

What happens when the top has “overrun the roots” (Jacob 5:37, 48)?

of the problems confronted by the Lord of the vineyard was the fact that the
branches ovearcame the roots by growing “faster than the strength of the
roots, taking strength unto themselves” (Jacob 5:48). There is a
distinction between mineral uptake by roots, particularly the influence of
nitrogen compounds, which are necessary for wood growth, and carbon assimilation
by photosynthesis, which takes place in the leaves and supplies carbon for the
forming of the plant body, including the fruit. In order to get a full crop of
olives an equilibrium must be maintained between these two processes. However,
the relation between photosynthesis and underground nutrient absorption depends
largely upon the age of the tree. As trees age it becomes more difficult for
the roots to continue to grow and obtain nourishment for the tree, while the
foliage is still very active. The equilibrium is broken when mineral substances
from the roots become less available. When this happens rejuvenation pruning is
necessary to reduce the aerial portions of the tree.119 Accordingly, when the older rootstock of the main tree in Jacob 5 is
rejuvenated by extensive grafting, it cannot keep up with the vigorous new
growth of the wild stock (Jacob 5:37), and pruning and grafting are necessary
as a corrective measure.

How does a change in the branches affect the roots; “because of the change
of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil” (Jacob 5:59)?

have a direct bearing on the quality of the fruit. Temperate fruit tree growers
“often select a certain rootstock for a particular fruiting cultivar
because it will dwarf the tree” to facilitate fruit harvesting and, in
most instances, will bring the tree into production sooner. The tree is
dwarfed, but not the roots nor the fruit. Hartmann et al. point out that for “some
species, particularly citrus, the type of rootstock can . . . influence the
quality of fruit produced by the scion cultivar. . . . When sweet orange
seedlings are used as the rootstock for orange trees, the fruits will be of

reasons for these rootstock influences are not known. Possibly certain dwarfing
rootstocks produce relatively large amounts of growth inhibitors, such as
abscisic acid which is translocated through the graft union to the fruiting
scion.121 There is little information on similar grafting effects for olives. It is known
that some olive varieties benefit from grafting onto a compatible rootstock. An
example of a beneficial graft is “Gordal” grafted on “Zorzaleigne”
in the Seville region. In dry cultivation the Gordal is not sufficiently
vigorous on its own roots to produce large table olives, while with the
Zorzaleigne rootstock it is.122 Control of tree size and sometimes changes in tree shape may be significant
rootstock effects, as well as influencing the vigor of certain scion cultivars.123

Hartmann, Kofranek, Rubatzky, and Flocker also point out that if a strongly growing scion cultivar is grafted on a
weak rootstock, the growth of the rootstock will be stimulated and will become
larger than if left ungrafted.124 If a weakly growing scion cultivar is grafted on a vigorous rootstock, the growth
of the rootstock will be lessened compared to what it might have been without
grafting. With the olive, the productivity of each scion‑rootstock
combination must be tested individually. The vigor of one cultivar or variety
on a particular rootstock may not be duplicated by another scion variety.125

Why it is necessary “that the root and top . . . be equal in strength”
(Jacob 5:66, 73)?

is necessary to achieve and maintain a proper balance between the roots and
branches of the olive tree. Due to various climate and soil conditions, the one
may grow more vigorously than the other. Pruning does not necessarily stop
excessive growth when trees are young and may even aggravate the imbalance
between the above- and below-ground portions of the tree. When trees are young
with inadequate foliage, pruning should be minimized. As trees get older more
severe pruning becomes necessary because of the now diminished root activity.126

As the grafts grow, why would one prune away the branches with bitter fruit “according
to the strength of the good and the size thereof” (Jacob 5:65)?

suggested in Jacob 5:11, the wild branches were grafted in to save the roots,
probably because the wild branches had more vigor than tame branches. If this
assumption is correct, wild branches could have been grafted from many wild
plants (see “all kinds of bad fruit,” Jacob 5:32). Some branches
would produce fruit more bitter than others, depending upon the genetic
constitution of the individual wild plants, particularly since wild plants
reproduce from seeds that will result in significant genetic diversity. The
most bitter fruit would be the least desirable to retain; thus, it would be
eliminated first to replace the wild branches with tame branches. However, all
of the wild branches would be replaced only as there was sufficient vigor in
the tame branches to support the roots, precisely as is depicted in Jacob 5:65–66.

If you clear out the bad too quickly, what happens when the root becomes “too
strong for the graft” (Jacob 5:65)?

Jacob 5:65 it is stated, “And ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all
at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the
graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.” If all
of the branches were replaced at the same time, the tree and roots could be
overstressed. Perhaps the “roots being too strong for the graft”
refers to excess water and minerals being made available at the deficit of
photosynthetic products, because the newly grafted branches would not have
enough foliage to photosynthesize and translocate carbon compounds to the

What procedure is implied by the term “pluck‑off” (Jacob 5:7,
26, 52, 57, 58)?

pluck means to pick out, cull or strip,127 cut or remove. Zenos reflects a difference in the severity of pruning: ranging from “plucking
off” whole branches or sections (Jacob 5:7) to “trimming up”
selected growth (Jacob 5:58). White states that after several years trees
should be pruned and all unwanted branches should be lopped: “Remember the
old proverb ‘He who ploughs the olive‑grove, asks it for fruit; he who
manures it, begs for fruit; he who lops it, forces it to give fruit.’ “128

What is wrong with “loftiness” (Jacob 5:48)?

Jacob 5:48 the servant diagnosed the problem with the master’s tree: “Is
it not the loftiness of thy vineyard?” It appears that loftiness refers to
the branches overcoming the roots. The tree is too tall and there is too much
foliage for the roots to feed (see question 20, discussed earlier). This is a common problem
with olive trees. Pansiot and Rebour state, “In the course of time, the
tree can grow to a considerable size. If left to itself, it can attain a height
of 15 to 20 meters, but then, of course, picking the crop becomes very
difficult.”129 These authors also state that a tree should not grow so tall that the trunk
is exposed to the sun.130

How are pruning teams organized (Jacob 5:61, 70–72), and is it typical
that the “laborers are few” (Jacob 5:70)?

order to accomplish the necessary pruning, the Lord instructed the servant to “go
to, and call servants” (Jacob 5:61). The servant organized a small pruning
team (Jacob 5:70), and the Lord encouraged them to work hard (Jacob 5:71). They
then went to work, taking instructions from the Lord and working together with
him (Jacob 5:72).

and Rebour discuss pruning teams in modern groves.131 They are normally composed of from eight to twelve apprentices with a very
competent foreman (as compared to the servant). The most competent specialist cuts back
the large branches and works with the conservation of the replacement branches.
The less skilled worker might thin the small fruiting branches, as this is easier.
Adolescents trim and cover the wounds with grafting wax. Children bring
supplies and equipment. Even when experienced pruners are used proper
organization of the work teams is important, and each worker must be given
appropriate instructions.

foreman gives the directions for the overall tasks to be performed. At
the foot of each tree he tells the workmen the pruning plan. He discusses
places where thinning should be thorough and where it should be lighter, the
main branches that need to be eliminated, and if necessary, he uses chalk to
mark spots where main cuts will be made. He supervises the work and checks it
when completed. The branches are left on the ground where they fall so their
former positions on the trees are clear in the event that discussions about
them are necessary.132 It is significant that the Lord of the vineyard himself works the vineyard at
first (Jacob 5:5, 15, 29) and works alongside his servant-foreman and his
hired hands as the season draws near (Jacob 5:72).

point that only a few laborers were engaged by the Lord of the vineyard (Jacob
5:70) appears to be necessary for the message of the allegory, but it is also
relevant to olive culture. A fairly small crew of pruners and workers can
maintain a vineyard or plantation (see question 13, earlier in this chapter.)

How were hired workers usually paid?

the ancient world, where cash currency was not always available, wages for
workers hired for the season would have been paid by giving them part of the
harvest, but in more developed economies, wages and exchange equivalences were
fixed by law. For example, in Babylonia wages could be paid to harvesters,
winnowers, and hired hands in set amounts of either barley or silver.133 The importance of the olive is suggested by palace accounts of Mycenaean
princes who made meticulous entries indicating rations of oil awarded to staff.
In ancient Israel “there was little demand or market for hired labour. The
hireling in most cases was a poor foreigner lacking a plot of land of his own.”134 In Zenos’s allegory, labor seems to be organized at first by the day (Jacob
5:47) and then for the final season (Jacob 5:70–77). Labor contracts could be
made by the day (Deuteronomy 24:15), possibly by the harvest season (Ruth 2:3),
or by the year (Leviticus 25:50, 53; Isaiah 16:14; 21:16). It was a mark of
great generosity for a master to furnish his workers, in the end, not just with
money but “liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy [threshing] floor,
and out of thy winepress” (Deuteronomy 15:14). Therefore, in Zenos’s
allegory, when the Lord of the vineyard promised his workers a share of the
crop, he should probably be understood as being very generous (Jacob 5:72).

Transplanting and Asexual

How can olive branches be “planted” (Jacob 5:23, 24, 25, 54)?

of the key elements of the allegory of Zenos is the image of taking cuttings
from the tame tree and not just grafting them into other trees (Jacob 5:8–9)
but clearing the ground (Jacob 5:44) and “planting” them elsewhere
(Jacob 5:23, 24, 25, 54). These branches will take root (Jacob 5:54).

ancients relied principally upon propagation by slips, which is accomplished by
taking stem pieces or cuttings of roots and burying them in an inclined
position in trenches four inches deep. They normally sprout within a year.135 The olive is one of the few fruit trees that can be propagated by taking a
branch of a tree and burying it in the ground. This is apparently what Zenos
had in mind when he indicates that the Lord of the vineyard took branches and “planted”
them, saying that the natural branches were “hid” in the ground
(Jacob 5:14). Hillhouse states that the olive is extremely tenacious.136 When the trunk has perished by frost or by fire it forms new sprouts. If a bit
of the bark, with a thin layer of wood, is buried in the earth, it becomes a
perfect plant. All of the branches and even the trunk can be removed and the
tree may still live (see question 19). Olive shoots can be cut off,
placed in soil, and indeed they will root.

What is meant by “young and tender branches” (Jacob 5:8)? Does this
refer to suckers? Do they bear fruit? Can they be grafted elsewhere or transplanted?

the young and tender branches, they appear to be new growth that resulted from
the heavy pruning mentioned in Jacob 5:4, 7. Suckers are “shoots arising
from the underground parts of the plant, usually coming from adventitious buds
on roots. In grafted trees they generally arise from the rootstock below the
graft union.”137 If suckers arise from the rootstock, they should be removed as soon as they are
noticed, since the rootstock’s genetic constitution is rarely suitable for
fruit production. Rootstocks normally originate from seeds of cultivated
varieties or from wild varieties, which creates the genetic diversity and the
resulting unsuitability for fruit bearing. Unlike scions used for fruit
production, rootstocks are not typically propagated vegetatively. However, in
California, a cloned rootstock is frequently used because of its resistance to
the fungus, Verticillium Albo‑atrum.138

growing above‑ground branches are also called suckers. This normally
happens when trees have been overpruned. If above-ground suckers alone are used
as the shoots to produce new trees it may take ten years or longer for them to
bear fruit.139 Elant states that when suckers are removed from a main trunk, “obtaining a
new tree may take up to eight years, but three or four years are often
sufficient.”140 He does not indicate whether obtaining a new tree also implies fruit
production. Accordingly, if the Lord of the vineyard used suckers, it is
appropriate that the allegory mentions that he allowed “a long time”
for them to grow (Jacob 5:15).

shoots can be transplanted. Ovules, protuberances at the base of trees, may
form aerial sprouts that can be rooted or grafted. The ovules can be induced
to produce rooted suckers in situ,
which is their natural function, by covering the base of the tree with a light
layer of soil.141


What happens when an olive tree “waxes old” (Jacob 5:3)?

olive trees age, the roundness of the trunk is lost and ridges form on the
surface, separated by hollows. Even though the old wood is very hard, it may
deteriorate, especially in rainy areas. It then becomes difficult for the roots
to continue proper growth and to supply nutrients to the tree. At the same
time, the foliage may be very active and the equilibrium is broken as a result
of the falloff in the supply of mineral substances by the roots. Growth
slows down and cannot keep pace with fruit production. Pruning is then
necessary to rejuvenate the tree by reducing the aerial portions of the tree, thereby maintaining a proper balance between the top and the root.142

is a tendency for olive trees to form more fruit than they can maintain with
the available nutrients. As trees age this tendency becomes accentuated. If the
excessive fruit is not thinned, fruiting the following year will be
considerably reduced, or even non-existent.143

What is the “main top” (Jacob 5:6)?

term “main top” is not commonly used in modern terminology. In the context of Jacob 5:6, it appears
to refer to the “main branches” (Jacob 5:7) of the original tree,
which were replaced because of the age of the tree or neglect. Pansiot and Rebour state that “the
sap flows most readily to the best-lit portions of the tree, which are
generally the branches at the top.”144 The lower boughs are more shaded and
tend to become weakened. The main
branches, with the greatest access to the light and sap, are the most important
to the tree and should have the best chance for becoming productive, but when
they become old and unproductive they need to be removed.

How can old trees be rejuvenated?

are many ways to rejuvenate old trees, and thus the Lord of the vineyard would
have many options in trying to preserve his beloved tree. Olive trees have
extraordinary vitality and powers for recuperation. Old trees that are
apparently dying, if properly tended, can become vigorous, high‑yielding,
renewed trees with only elementary care (cf. Jacob 5:8). When the lower portion
of a tree has some vitality left, only the diseased, decayed, or dead portions
are removed (see Jacob 5:7). New growth starts again at varying speeds. In
favorable circumstances, new shoots form a new framework within a few years and
trees will resume normal fruiting after four to five years.145 After a certain point, however, rejuvenation is impractical or impossible and
the tree dies. Hence, the Lord of the vineyard recognizes that the end is at
hand when he goes into the orchard to prune and harvest for the last time
(Jacob 5:75).

What occurs when a tree first “begins to decay” (Jacob 5:3)?

systems go through a natural aging process. When multicellular living organisms
are young, the genetic mechanism dictates development and growth. With maturity
there is a shift to a maintenance of cells. Human cells in culture appear to
divide about fifty times, then the entire population dies. If frozen for a
period of years and then allowed to divide again, the clock is reset, and
they divide fifty more times before they die.146 Although the specific causes are not known, aging is a common occurrence in
biological organisms. Most species of trees grow to a certain size, then age
and die. However, many trees may be propagated vegetatively. New shoots and
suckers can reinitiate the cycle of growth. This principle is used to rejuvenate
old olive trees.

a biological point of view, “decay” (Jacob 5:3) can refer to natural
deterioration which may or may not involve microorganisms. It can also refer to
decomposition caused by parasitic or saprophytic microorganisms and macroorganisms.
When tree trunks are young they are normally covered completely by living
tissue, which produces resins and other products that help to deter
microorganisms and insects. As trees get older the bark splits, exposing
underlying non‑living wood that is no longer protected by the living
cells. Microorganisms, insects, and natural weathering cause decay, which in
some instances may spread to the living tissues.

Is it natural, as a tree ages, for the branches to grow faster than the
roots and “overcome the roots” (Jacob 5:48)?

a tree grows old, it becomes [more] difficult for the roots to continue their
growth and provide minerals for the tree.” The foliage normally remains
active, causing root stress. This eventually results in slowed root growth and
less abundant fruit production. Rejuvenation by pruning, which reduces the
aerial portions of the tree, is used to correct this situation.147 Dealing with this very problem, the Lord of the vineyard determines, “We
will nourish again the trees of the vineyard, and we will trim up the branches
thereof; and we will pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened”
(Jacob 5:58).

What does it mean when “branches are ripened” (Jacob 5:37, 58)?

the Lord of the vineyard inspects his tree, he observes that “it beginneth
to perish; and it will soon become ripened” (Jacob 5:37). When branches
become excessively long or bent over, they lose their vitality. Stress causes
the sap to seek the nearest outlet, usually causing the branches to fade and
vigorous suckers to grow at the base of the branches. When the suckers occur at
the base of the scaffold branches, it indicates that the branches are dying and
rejuvenation pruning is necessary.148 Also, wood that has born fruit once will not bear again and may be considered
as “ripened.”

Can olive groves be reclaimed through grafting?

presents the image of an entire orchard that has become useless. The Lord of
the vineyard tries to rejuvenate his whole orchard by grafting genetic material
from the his best tree onto the rootstock of other trees (Jacob 5:8) and by
planting shoots from that tree in various new parts of his vineyard (Jacob
5:14). Indeed, vast wild olive groves have sometimes been improved by such
grafting and are found throughout the Mediterranean Basin. It is a complicated
and costly process and normally calls for soil improvement.149 Grafting more desirable branches onto native stands of wild olive rootstocks
has given some good results, but it is currently less practical than setting
out new plantations. Cultivating wild olive trees may save a few years in bringing trees into
bearing, but the trees will not bear as well later.150 Accordingly, the Lord of the vineyard obtains positive results at first (Jacob
5:20–24), but in time all the trees in his orchard became poor producers (Jacob
5:39, 46).

What is a “mother tree” (Jacob 5:54, 60)?

tree” is not a common term today, but it is sometimes used. It appears
four times, late, in Zenos’s allegory. The term usually refers to a tree with desirable
genetic characteristics from which cuttings are derived to produce asexually
propagated offspring.


How does grafting preserve the roots (Jacob 5:10, 11, 17, 34)?

main strategy used by the Lord of the vineyard to preserve the rootstock of
the main tree was to graft in branches from a wild olive (Jacob 5:9, 17). “And
the servant said unto his master: Behold, because thou didst graft in the
branches of the wild olive-tree they have nourished the roots, that they are
alive and they have not perished” (Jacob 5:34).

it would be unusual to graft branches of wild olive onto tame trees to save the
roots, there may be instances where the wild branches are more vigorous than
tame or domesticated branches and would therefore be beneficial. White suggests
that slips from the wild olive may help to resuscitate a tree that bore badly.151 Possibly they could supply carbon products from photosynthesis more rapidly to
support the roots, because of their vigor. Without carbon compounds produced in
the aboveground portion, roots will perish. If a strongly growing scion
cultivar is grafted on a weak rootstock, the growth of the rootstock will be
stimulated and become larger than if it were left ungrafted.152

other possibility is that the foliage from the mother tree had become infected
with insect, virus, fungal, bacterial, or other parasites, and the “wild”
shoots were used because they were resistant to the disease-causing organisms.
This possibility is enhanced by the fact that Jacob 5:9 says the old
branches were to be “cast into the fire,” a procedure that makes
sense especially if the branches were infested.

What is meant by “natural branches” as distinguished from grafted

natural branches are assumed to be the branches that were originally propagated
by cuttings from the mother tree. Our assumption is that “natural branches”
refers to branches of O. europaea as
opposed to branches of O. oleaster or
wild olives. Natural branches may be grafted branches as it is a common
practice to graft O. europaea branches onto O. oleaster. White states that fruit
farmers have learned by experience that a grafted branch will give fruit true
to type.153

What is the success rate of grafting?

Lord of the vineyard expresses some doubt whether certain grafts will grow: “If
it be so that these last grafts shall grow” (Jacob 5:64). With temperate
fruits, grafts are highly compatible if the two partners are different
cultivars or clones within a species. There are few cases where graft
combinations are successful with different genera in the same family. “If
the two graft partners are in the same genus but different species, then the
chances of success are greatly improved,” although many of these types of
graft combinations will not unite successfully.154 Wild and domesticated olives are in the same genus, and they graft readily.
There are many factors that determine whether grafts are successful. Examples
include grafting during the proper season, the care taken to make the graft, the
compatibility of the cultivar used for the scion with the particular root
stock, the age of the tissue, and whether disease organisms hamper the graft.
Bioletti and Colby state that a certain portion of the olive grafted scions
will not grow even with the best of care, and many will remain dormant from one
to two years.155

the Lord’s strategy optimized the success rate of the grafts, for he determined
to graft the natural material from the nethermost parts of the vineyard back
into its natural mother trunk (Jacob 5:52, 60, 67). At the same time he took
additional material from that tame tree and grafted it onto “the roots of
the natural branches” that had previously come from the same tree and had
grown in the nethermost parts of the vineyard. The later step was taken “that
I may preserve them also [the roots in the nethermost parts of the vineyard]
for mine own purpose” (Jacob 5:54; see also 5:68).

Why is it worth working to preserve the natural branches by grafting them onto
other trees (Jacob 5:13–14)?

root stock is important, it does not determine the quality of fruit. The
natural branches from the “tame tree” represent a desirable clone or
cultivar. Therefore, it had the genetic constitution for the desirable or
domesticated fruit rather than the “wild” tree with undesirable
fruit. If we have a clone or cultivar that produces good fruit, has disease
resistance, is adapted to the local environment, and that grows well, we
strive to preserve that clone or cultivar so we do not lose the precious
genetic material. This would be true for olive or other temperate fruit trees.

What condition is described by the phrase “all sorts of fruit did cumber
the tree” (Jacob 5:30)? Does this suggest poor fruit quality (Jacob
5:32)? Are olives especially vulnerable to this problem?

Jacob 5:30 the natural branches are described as having been broken off and
wild branches grafted in. Because of this “all sorts of fruit did cumber
the tree” and “there is none of it which is good” (Jacob 5:32).
This could happen if the rootstock of an old tree was rejuvenated with grafts
from wild trees. If the wild branches were taken from many wild trees there
would be much genetic diversity resulting in a tree that would bring forth all
sorts of undesirable fruit. As mentioned earlier, when the fruit set is heavy,
thinning is necessary to increase the size of the fruit so maturity
will not be delayed, resulting in alternate year bearing.156

addition, olive trees tend to produce more fruit than they can supply with
available nutrients. This becomes accentuated with age.157 Wild olives often produce five or six fruits on each peduncle; however,
cultivated trees have flowers that abort, casting green fruit during each
growth stage and resulting in only one or two fruits in a cluster at maturity.158 This causes wild fruit or fruit on untended trees to be thicker, smaller, and
more bitter than cultivated fruit. This is another way a tree could be
cumbered. Proper pruning can help to reduce this problem.159

Why should the Lord take the liberty to graft or plant young shoots “whithersoever
[he] will” (Jacob 5:8)?

has been discussed (see questions 19, 29, 30), the olive is very easy to
propagate as long as the basic cultural practices are adhered to. Pansiot and
Rebour report that “rooting is usually easy, except for some varieties
which are not easily propagated by cuttings.”160 By planting or grafting the natural branches into various parts of the
vineyard, the Lord may be experimenting to see how these branches grow at
different elevations, in various fresh soils, or with different amounts of

In what sense is “grafting a wild branch” onto a good tree “contrary
to nature” (Romans 11:24)?

are many references to the olive in the Old and New Testaments. In Romans 11:24
it is stated that it is contrary to nature to graft a wild olive tree onto a
good olive tree. As discussed previously, the wild olive is related to the
domesticated olive and they are both present in more or less the same geographic
and climatic belt.161 Cultivated and wild olives are interfertile and are closely related
morphologically.162 Therefore, it is relatively easy to graft wild onto domesticated and
domesticated onto wild. In Romans 11:24 perhaps it is contrary to nature
because we normally graft domesticated onto wild so we can use the desirable
genetic characteristics of the wild root, such as vigor, disease resistance,
and drought resistance in the rootstock, to enhance the genetically determined
fruit of the good cultivars. We would not normally want to graft wild onto
domesticated. In normal situations there would be no advantage. On the other
hand, White states that strenuous efforts are sometimes made to resuscitate a
tree that bore badly, including inserting slips from the wild olive along with
fertilizing with urine, liming, and grafting.163

What is involved when the Lord plucks out the most bitter and grafts the natural branches back into the mother tree (Jacob 5:56–57)?

5:56 says, “And they also took of the natural trees [branches that had
been planted] which had become wild, and grafted [them back] into their mother
tree.” Natural trees do not change genetically to “become wild”
(see questions 3 and 4). In the instance of Jacob 5:57, the wild branches are
not plucked from the tree except those that are the most bitter. The only
reason for grafting wild branches on tame trees is that they may provide more
vigor for rejuvenation than tame branches. However, there are good reasons to remove the branches with the most bitter fruit (see questions 23 and 50).

Do grafted branches have a long-term future (as implied by Romans 11:25) or
must they eventually all be pruned out (as in Jacob 5:73)?

Jacob 5:73 “the natural branches began to grow and thrive exceedingly; and
the wild branches began to be plucked off and to be cast away.” This
presumes that all the wild branches are eventually removed from the tame tree.
The viability of a graft, however, does not depend on its fruit-bearing

the tame tree originated from a graft of a scion onto a rootstock, all of the
aboveground portion of the tree would be from a grafted branch. That
tree can produce fruit from the original scion as long as it is properly
pruned. If the tree is neglected and becomes old with a lot of old wood it may
be necessary to graft again, particularly if it is burned or killed by frost.
The new suckers that would form would be from the wild rootstock and would
produce undesirable fruit. However, new grafts could be made onto them from
tame trees. Thus, for any graft, the eventuality of being pruned out would
depend upon the care of the tree.

Romans 11:24–25, Israel is the natural branch to be grafted into their
own olive tree when “the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Thus,
botanically speaking, there either could be a long‑term future or branches could eventually be all pruned out.

How long does it take for a graft to produce fruit (Jacob 5:15)?

length of time required for a graft to produce fruit depends upon which of the many
grafting procedures available is used and numerous other factors. Grafts may be
made with branches from cultivated plants onto young plants grown from wild or
cultivated stones (seeds), or grafts may be made onto small or large branches
of mature trees or onto ovules. There are many other types of grafts as well.
Other important factors involve significant genetic diversity with rootstocks
and scions, weather conditions, and the proper season for the type of graft.

Italy, particularly in the Pescia and Foggia area where the nursery industry is
very important, the “feather” graft is most often used. Feather
grafting involves introduction of the graft beneath the bark of a rootstock
from which the crown has been removed. The graft is made high or low on rootstocks,
which may be large or small depending upon the geographic area. For example,
in North Africa this graft is used most commonly on large rootstocks. It takes
the plants a full season to reach a height of thirty to seventy centimeters and the diameter of a
pencil before they are grafted. The five-to-six centimeter scions are taken from the central
portion of one‑year‑old shoots. After about two weeks the leaves of
the scion fall at the least touch. This is an indication that the graft has taken.
When the two shoots from the graft grow to about twenty centimeters the weaker shoot is
eliminated and the other is attached to a support after several additional
weeks. In March or April of the following year, when the grafted plants have
reached a height of fifty to one hundred centimeters, they are moved to nursery beds and are
planted in rows.164

the two or three years that the plants remain in the nursery, they are pruned
to give them the proper form. Opinions vary concerning how long they should
remain in the nursery before being planted in groves. Some horticulturalists
believe that the higher value of plants, from three to four years old, more than
offsets a shorter non‑productive period. Some maintain that younger
plants recover more quickly from the trauma of transplanting. Dryness,
humidity, plantation size, and other factors may also be significant. Planting
with a ball of soil surrounding the roots normally gives better results than
planting with bare roots, particularly in dry climates.

length of time it takes for the trees to begin fruit production after being
planted in a grove also varies, depending upon a number of genetic and
environmental factors. Therefore, many factors influence how long it takes for
a graft to produce fruit. Pansiot and Rebour state that after the trees are
planted it will take at least six years to start production with a new
plantation,165 and about forty years for it to come into full production.

49. How does fruit behave on a graft (Jacob 5:17–18)?

difference between fruit on a two‑year‑old graft and fruit on a
normal two‑year branch is related to the genetic constitution of the
graft. If the graft is from a selected domesticated cultivar it will have
essentially the same characteristic flavor, size, disease resistance, drought
resistance, and so forth, or lack thereof, that the “mother tree” had. On the
other hand, if the graft is from a wild plant with small and bitter fruit, the
graft will also have small bitter fruit. All fruits are borne on two‑year-old wood. Also, the graft must be of sufficient size and age to produce fruit.

branches will yield fruit true to type.166 Therefore, in our estimation, wild branches would normally not bring forth
tame fruit. It may be possible to obtain fruit that resembles the wild type on
a tame tree if the tree is not properly thinned, watered, fertilized, and
pruned. However, the tame branch still has the genetics potential to produce
good fruit. It does not revert to the wild type genetically.

Can one tree bring forth both good and bad fruit (Jacob 5:25) or all sorts of
fruit (Jacob 5:30) at the same time?

can be used to change the variety of fruit a plant produces. As an example,
several kinds of apple stocks can be grafted onto the same rootstock so the
same tree bears several kinds of apples. An important point is that grafting
cannot be used to create new kinds of fruit or flowers, even when the scion and
stock belong to different species. If a Bartlett pear scion is grafted onto a
quince stock the tree will produce Bartlett pears. Bringing forth good, bad, and
all sorts of fruit on one tree would require grafting; it would not happen
naturally. Thus, it is not surprising that the tame tree with its wild grafts
would produce all kinds of fruits (Jacob 5:30), but the branch planted in the
nethermost part of the vineyard would not naturally bring forth good fruit on
some branches and bad fruit on others, unless someone had come in and grafted
wild material onto that scion. Perhaps this is why the Lord of the vineyard
asks, “Who is it that has corrupted my vineyard?” (Jacob 5:47).


What was olive fruit used for?

appears to be good evidence that the olive was important very early all around
the ancient Mediterranean. The fruit of olive can be used either for pickling
(eating) or for oil. It was very valuable in the life and economy of the
ancient world, and thus was “most precious above all other fruit”
(Jacob 5:61, 74).

only was the oil used for lamps, anointing, and food, but it was also used in
rituals accompanying death, on the skin to prevent windburn, and as a cosmetic.167 In Classical Greece, athletes and others rubbed oil on their bodies then
scraped off the mixed oil, dirt, and sweat with a scraper. It is possible that
the olive was used for oil before it was used for fruit, since the fruit is
naturally bitter and it may have taken longer to discover how to rid the fruit
of its bitterness. The ancients would have easily noticed the olive’s potential
as an oil source, for when ripe, the fruits make oily spots on the ground and
anything else they contact. Also, oil and oil containers have been discovered
in the archaeological record, leaving little doubt that olive oil was used very
early. The oil probably could have been used for lamps without removing the bitter glucosides.

it is obvious that oil was important very early, it is also likely that the
value of the fruit as food was discovered shortly thereafter. Renfrew states
that in prehistoric times in Europe, olives certainly were eaten as well as
used for oil.168 He mentions that we can only speculate that oil was used for cooking, but it
was almost certainly used as fuel for lamps. Zohary and Hopf indicate that
since the Bronze Age, many Mediterranean peoples cultivated the olive for oil,
eating, cooking, ointment, and lighting.169 It was also a principal article of commerce primarily because of its excellent
storage qualities. Perhaps more archaeological investigations will help to
further elucidate this question.

oil is by far the most important income product. It is greatly prized
throughout the Mediterranean Basin both for fine flavor and cooking properties.
Pickled olives come in two types, green and black, with the green having the
highest demand. Black olives are more nutritious but less commonly eaten. There
are also by‑products of importance. The press cake is used for manure or
fuel, the wood is used by cabinet makers, and the leaves can be used as cattle
feed and for pharmaceutical purposes. The stones are now also of interest and
are used for molded products, plastics, and furfural makers.170 Anciently, the olive was probably used much as it is used today: for
cooking, oil for lamps, anointing, cosmetics, and for eating. Likely, washing
that removed most of the bitter glucosides from the oil eventually led to ways
for removal of the glucoside from the fruits.

What is meant by “laying up fruit against the season” (Jacob 5:13,
19, 20, 27, 29, 31, 46, 71, 76)? What are the characteristics of good fruit,
and how is the fruit or oil stored?

for the storage of oil and wine in the ancient Mediterranean is abundant,
according to Renfrew, although it is not always easy to determine whether it
was wine or oil that was stored. “The magazines of Quartier XI at Mallia .
. . showed a carefully planned device to avoid wasting liquid.”171 Each of six bays in a storage vault had a bench on both sides for standing
jars, with drainage furrows running transversely to the two central channels
which emptied into a jar sunk into the floor.

briefly discusses a similar storage space at Mycenae in the so‑called “House
of the Oil Merchant,” thought to be a palace annex.172 One room contained eleven large pithoi with an oval collection pit in the center of
the floor. Thirty large stirrup jars were found, and the clay of many of them
was clearly impregnated with oil. Many of the jars had been stopped with clay
and sealed. It is believed that this building was concerned largely with the
storage and handling of olive oil, suggesting that it was a common item in their

Philistines (1200–700 B.C.) had an extensive olive industry in Ekron, on
the coastal plain of Canaan.173 Although archaeologists have only excavated about three percent of the site, they
have identified 105 olive installations. They expect the number of known olive
installations to increase dramatically with additional excavations. With the
105 installations already discovered they estimated that the Ekron Philistines
produced 1000 tons of oil annually. The 290,000 gallons would have required
48,000 storage jars each year. This output equals one‑fifth of Israel’s
current export production.

What makes some olive fruit bitter (Jacob 5:52)?

as picked from the tree are very bitter. Accordingly, the Lord tasted the fruit
of his trees and found that they all were bitter (Jacob 5:31–32). They cannot
be eaten because of a bitter glucoside in the raw fruits called oleuropein.174 The glucoside can be partially washed out with running water. Repeated
applications of alkaline solutions followed by water can be used to remove the
remaining glucoside.175 Because of genetic diversity there are distinct differences in bitterness.
Cultivated olives are selected for their desirable characteristics, which
include lack of bitterness, size, flavor, oil content, adaptation to the local
area, and disease resistance. Bioletti and Colby point out that if “olives
are gathered too green the oil will be bitter, if too ripe it will be rancid.”176 Spanish green olives cured in lye may not be treated long enough to remove all
of the glucoside, which may contribute to the characteristic flavor.

recent Consumer Reports article indicates that different brands of olive oil
varied widely in olive flavor intensity, from decidedly pronounced to barely
perceptible.177 Other flavors found in the oil were “green”—the flavor of slightly
unripe fruit; “fruity”—a complex of ripened fruit flavors sometimes
undifferentiated and sometimes reminiscent of melon, peach, or green‑to‑ripe
banana; and “evergreen/herbal”—a flavor like fresh herbal with a
pine-like character. Some extra virgin oils and pure oils exhibited a slight
bitterness or astringency. Others produced a sensation called throatburn, which
was a slight tingling or burning impression in the back of the throat.
Therefore, not only do olives vary in the amount of bitter glucosides present
in fruits but other flavor components are also important.

uniformity in the crop is obviously desirable, since a small percentage of very
bitter fruit mixed in with the rest would reduce the qualify of oil for the
entire batch. Hence, the Lord of the vineyard strived to achieve a situation in
which all the trees “became like unto one body; and the fruits were equal”
(Jacob 5:74). Once this condition was achieved, the crop was stabilized “for
a long time” of fruitful harvesting (Jacob 5:76).

Destroying Old Olive Trees

When the fruit becomes “corrupted,” the whole tree is declared to be “good
for nothing” (Jacob 5:42, 46). Are there no other uses for such a tree?

word “corrupted” is not a botanical term. One can interpret the term
to mean generally unsound. If this is correct it likely means that the branches
were literally of no more use. In verse 40, “the branch hath withered away
and died” and verse 43 refers to a tree “whose branch had withered
away.” This suggests that the branches were no longer functional. The life
had gone out of them or perhaps they were decayed. If the wood is dead the best
option may be for them to be “hewn down and cast into the fire”
(Jacob 5:42). Dead wood is also likely to have parasites and pathogens, and one
of the best ways to reduce the inoculum potential is to burn the infested plant
materials. Olive wood contains resin and oil, so it burns quite readily.

the wood was not decayed, it could be used for a variety of purposes. It is
heavy, compact, fine‑grained, and has many other desirable characteristics
for wood products. Cabinetmakers use it to inlay. The ancients used it as a
hard and durable wood, such as ebony and cedar. It was used for the hinges of
doors because of its hardness, and the Greeks selected it for the images of
their gods.178

Why is it necessary to burn the bad wood (Jacob 5:7, 9, 37, 42, 47, 58)?

is important in order to eliminate parasites and pathogens. Disease‑causing
organisms could be present in the branches that were removed, necessitating
the need to burn them to prevent additional infection. Thus, the ground is not
cumbered (Jacob 5:9). There is no direct evidence in Zenos’s allegory of plant
pathogens being the cause for removal of the branches. However, it is still
common today to burn infected material from trees and debris under those trees
to reduce the reinfection potential of pathogens and parasites. In addition, if
branches are heaped on the ground, weeds grow in the debris, and the ground
cannot be ploughed, cultivated, or fertilized. Olive wood burns well before or
after it is dried because of its resins and oleaginous nature.179

Why is it advantageous to incinerate an entire old vineyard (Jacob 5:49, 77)?

has been known since ancient times that olive groves destroyed by fire sprout
vigorously. The Lord appears ready to burn his entire vineyard and start over
in verse 49, but the servant persuades him to work with the existing trees a
little longer (Jacob 5:50).

are sometimes burned deliberately to reconstitute them.180 When reconstituting an olive tree by burning, the tree is taken up, leaving
only the large roots. The bases are either burned or ripped up with a tractor.
The new shoots are vigorous, but they do not grow in the same
spot as the original tree, which complicates cultivation. Three of the main
shoots are selected about a meter from each other. They are trimmed leaving
three small-rooted bases, which are covered with soil. In today’s practice, the
hole left by the base of the old tree is filled with fifty kilograms of manure and two
units each of phosphate and potassium, mixed with soil. The trunks remain one
meter apart, which makes it possible to get from two hundred to three hundred trees per hectare in what
was a grove with one hundred trees per hectare before it was burned.

burning an olive grove is a symbol of rebirth. The Lord’s efforts throughout
the allegory represent the last effort, leading to the “last time”
that he will graft and plant as he does to rejuvenate the old tree in his
vineyard (Jacob 5:62–64, 71, 75–77), but the image of burning in the end is not
one of destruction. It conveys botanically the idea of starting over. It
reminds us that the Lord had preserved the roots of the young
shoots planted in the nethermost parts for an unstated future purpose (Jacob
5:54). After the vineyard is burned, the old stump will be removed and the
young roots will shoot forth new growth carrying forth the favorable genetic


on the botanical and horticultural information present in the archaeological
and historical record, and reflected in Jacob 5, we can conclude that the
ancients were superb horticulturalists and had a profound understanding of
vital biological and plant cultural principles. Most of the botanical and
horticultural principles in Jacob 5 are sound and are very important for olive
culture. In addition, the one or two points, according to our interpretation, that
represent unusual or anomalous circumstances are necessary enhancements to the
message of the allegory.

this single chapter of the Book of Mormon there are many detailed horticultural
practices and procedures that were not likely known by an untrained person,
and may not have been fully appreciated by professional botanists or
horticulturalists at the time the Book of Mormon was translated. Even today,
outside of olive-growing areas, professional horticulturalists may not fully
appreciate some of the unique aspects of olive culture. Given the extensive
detail about olive culture present in Jacob 5, we must give Zenos much credit
for a high degree of horticultural knowledge, which many take for granted.

of what the ancients and Zenos evidently knew were how to prune, dig about,
dung, and nourish; how to graft tame to wild and wild to tame, and how to graft
tame back into tame; how to balance tops and roots by pruning, and the reasons
for doing this; how to save the roots of trees whose branches had decayed, and
how to transplant branches to preserve the desired traits of good plants; how
to preserve and store fruit and how to distinguish between good and bad fruit;
how well plants grow on good and bad soil; how to care for trees to cause young
and tender branches to shoot forth; that they could graft wild to tame to
rejuvenate tame; that specific cultivars produced well only in certain areas;
how to remove the bitter glucosides from the fruit; that they could burn an
orchard to reestablish a new one; that plants grown from seeds would not have
desirable characteristics; the importance of elimination of old wood and debris
by burning, and how to deal with pests and pathogens; how to prevent heavy
bearing one year and no bearing the next by proper pruning; the necessity to
plant more than one cultivar for pollination; and how to propagate scions with
the desirable genetic material.

much of this sophisticated technology was probably lost in Nephite
civilization, for the olive is not mentioned again in the Book of Mormon after
Jacob 5, an indication that the lands of the Book of Mormon may not have been
suitable for growing olives. It seems reasonable to conjecture that given the
importance of olives, Lehi and his group might have carried olives with them as
they did other plants (1 Nephi 8:1; 16:11; 18:6). However, these references
mention seeds, but not cuttings, and fruit-bearing olives are not usually grown
from seeds. Warren reported that the strongest, heaviest bearing, and
longest living trees are those grown from seed.181 But trees from seedlings tend to resemble wild forms, and the resultant fruit
is normally unsuited for either oil or pickling. To have the desired quality of
fruit, the tree must be cloned from a selected and proven cultivar.182 Moreover, with the very restrictive climatic requirements for olive production
it is not surprising that there is no New World mention of olives in the Book
of Mormon. The only regions on the American continents with Mediterranean
climates where olive culture is economically feasible are regions of
California, Chile, and Argentina.

Smith probably knew how to prune, dig about, dung, and nourish local fruit
trees; he probably knew a little about grafting, and he may have been familiar with
some other horticultural principles, but not likely those peculiarly related to
olive culture. In the Gerard Herbal, published in 1633,183 there is a brief description of the olive tree, and some limited information
about its characteristics and its “vertues” (virtues). In that
description it is stated, “[t]he tame or manured olive tree groweth high
and great with many branches, full of long narrow leaves not much unlike the
leaves of willowes, but narrower and smaller: the floures be white and very
small, growing upon clusters or bunches: the fruit is long and round, wherein
is an hard stone: from which fruit is pressed that liquor which we call oyle
olive. The wilde olive is like unto the tame or garden olive tree, saving that
the leaves are something smaller: among which sometimes do grow many prickely
thornes: the fruit hereof is lesser than the former, and moe in number, which
do seldome come to maturitie or ripenes in somuch that the oile which is made
of those berries continueth ever green, and is called Oile Omphacine, or oile
of unripe olives.” From Jahn’s
Biblical Archaeology
, the following limited information (and certain
misinformation) from and about the Bible could have been general knowledge in
Joseph Smith’s day: “Olive trees . . . were a very ancient and
profitable object of agriculture. . . . Olives in Palestine are of
the best growth and afford the best oil; hence this region is often extolled on
account of this tree, and especially in opposition to Egypt, which is destitute
of good olives. . . . Land that is barren, sandy, dry and
mountainous, is favourable to the production of the olive. . . . It
flourishes about two hundred years, and even while it is living, young olives
spring up around it which occupy its place when dead. . . . It
was customary, notwithstanding, to raise the tree from suckers, which were
transplanted. It requires no other cultivation than digging the ground and
pruning the branches. . . . The cotinus and the oleaster are both called wild
Olive-trees. They are nevertheless of different kinds, though they are
sometimes confounded by the Greeks themselves.
The fruit of the cotinus is used for
no other purpose than colouring; the oleaster, the agrippa elaeagnus of Linnaeus, is that species of wild olive,
whose branches (see Schulz, in Paulus’ collection of Travels, VI.290) are
grafted into barren olive-trees, that are in a state of cultivation, in order
that fruitfulness may be produced, comp. Rom. 11:17, 24.”184 Not much more than this was known about olives in the eastern United States (an
area not suitable for olive cultivation) in 1829 when the Book of Mormon was
translated. Most of the information discussed in this chapter, however,
was known and practiced in the lands around the Mediterranean from ancient
times to the present.


1. Joseph
T. Shipley, The Origins of English Words:
A Discursive Dictionary of Indo‑European Roots
(Baltimore: John
Hopkins University Press, 1984), 95.

2. Eric
Partridge, Origins: A Short Etymological
Dictionary of Modern English
(New York: Greenwich House, 1983), 450.

3. Alphonse
de Candolle, Origin of Cultivated Plants (New York: Hafner, 1886 [1967]), 281–82.

4. Ibid.,

5. Daniel
Zohary and Pinhas Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the
Old World,” Science 187 (1975):

6. De
Candolle, Origin of Cultivated Plant, 283–84.

7. Ibid.,

8. Peter
M. Bergman, The Concise Dictionary of
Twenty‑Six Languages in Simultaneous Translations
(New York: Polyglot
Library, Bergman Publishers, 1968), 170.

9. Colin
Renfrew, The Emergence of Civilisation:
The Cyclades and the Aegean in the Third Millennium B.C.
(London: Methuen,
1972), 304.

10. Zohary and
Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,”

11. Renfrew, The Emergence of Civilisation, 304.

12. Lawrence E.
Stager, “The First Fruits of Civilization,” in Jonathan N. Tubb, ed., Palestine in the Bronze and Iron Age:
Papers in Honour of Olga Tufnell
(London: Institute of Archaeology, 1985), 172–73.

13. Ibid., 176.

14. Zohary and
Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,”

15. In a discussion
following a presentation of a paper by J. Boardman, The Olive in the
Mediterranean: Its Culture and Use
(London: Philosophical Transactions:
Royal Society London Series B, vol. 275, 1976), 194.

16. Boardman, The Olive in the Mediterranean: Its Culture
and Use
, 187–88.

17. R. Neef, “Introduction,
Development and Environmental Implications of Olive Culture: The Evidence from Jordan,”
in Entjes‑Nieborg Bottema and Van Zeist, eds., Man’s Role in the Shaping of the Eastern Mediterranean Landscape (Rotterdam: Balkema, 1990), 295.

18. Tamar Noy, A. J.
Legge, and E. S. Higgs, “Recent Excavations at Nahal Oren, Israel,” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 39 (1973): 75–96.

19. Maria Hopf, “Plant
Remains,” in R. Amiran, ed., Early
Arad. I.: The Chalcolithic Settlement and Early Bronze Age City
(Jerusalem: 64–82.

20. William B.
Turrill, “Wild and Cultivated Olives,” Kew Bulletin (1952), 440–41.

21. Ibid., 440.

22. Renfrew, The Emergence of Civilisation, p.
290; John Chadwick, Documents in
Mycenaean Greek
, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 50.

23. Boardman, The Olive in the Mediterranean, 188.

24. Arthur Cotterell, Origins of European Civilization (London: Joseph, 1985), 14–15.

25. U. P. Hedrick,
ed., Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants (Albany: Lyon, 1919), 392.

26. Edwin Dobb, “The
Olive of La Falguera,” Discover (May 1991): 27.

27. Daniel Zohary and
Maria Hopf, Domestication of Plants in
the Old World
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1988), 134.

28. Ibid.

29. Turrill, “Wild

30. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

31. Jean A. P. M. de
Lamarch, Encyclopedie Methodique
(Paris: Panckoucke, 1788), 4:2:1:29.

32. Turrill, “Wild
and Cultivated Olives,” 441.

33. N. W. Simmonds,
ed., Evolution of Crop Plants (New
York: Longman, 1976), 219.

34. Ibid.

35. Zohary and
Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,”

36. Ibid.

37. Simmonds, ed., Evolution of Crop Plants, 219.

38. Johannes C. Th.
Uphof, Dictionary of Economic Plants,
ürzburg: Cramer, 1968), 372–73.

39. Zohary and
Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,” 320–21.

40. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

41. Ibid.

42. Turrill, “Wild
and Cultivated Olives,” 438.

43. Hudson T.
Hartmann, Anton M. Kofranek, Vincent E. Rubatzky, and William J. Flocker, Plant Science: Growth, Development, and
Utilization of Cultivated Plants
, 2d ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice
Hall, 1988), 615.

44. John A. Barden,
R. Gordon Halfacre, and David J. Parrish, Plant
(New York: McGraw‑Hill, 1987), 444.

45. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

46. Ibid.

47. Zohary and
Spiegel‑Roy, “Beginnings of Fruit Growing in the Old World,”

48. Simmonds, ed., Evolution of Crop Plants, 219.

49. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

50. Ibid.

51. F. Scaramuzzi, “Intensive
Olive‑Growing,” in José H. Guillén, Ricardo T. Molina, J. M.
Philippe, and G. Piquer, eds., Modern
(Rome: United Nations Development Programme/Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1977), 64–65.

52. B. A. Daniels and
J. A. Menge, “Evaluation of the Commercial Potential of the Vesicular
Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungus Glomus
,” New Phytologist 87 (1981): 345–54.

53. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

54. Nestore Jacobini,
M. Battaglini, and P. Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” in
Guillén et al., eds., Modern
, 31–32.

55. Ibid., 28.

56. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 294–95.

57. Jacobini,
“Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 41–48.

58. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

59. Ibid.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid., 653.

62. Turrill, “Wild
and Cultivated Olives,” 438.

63. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid.

66. E. Mateo‑Sagasta
Azpeitia, “Disorders and Diseases of the Olive Tree,” in Guillén et
Modern Olive-Growing, 143–57.

67. Ibid., 144.

68. José F. Llamas, “Fertilizing
“in Guillén et al., eds., Modern Olive-Growing, 99–114.

69. Ibid., 109.

70. Ibid., 109–10.

71. William M. Hess, “Botanical
Comparisons in the Allegory of the Olive Tree,” in Monte S. Nyman and
Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., The Book of
Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy
(Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1990), 94–96.

72. Fernand P.
Pansiot and Henri Rebour, Improvement in
Olive Cultivation
(Agricultural Studies no. 50) (Rome: Food &
Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 1961), 21.

73. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World, 128–29.

74. Pansiot and
Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation,

75. Augustus L.
Hillhouse, An Essay on the History and
Cultivation of the European Olive‑Tree
(Paris: Cellot, 1820), 21.

76. F. T. Bioletti
and Geo. E. Colby, “Olives,” University of California at Berkeley Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin 123 (1899), 5–6.

77. Jane M. Renfrew, Palaeoethnobotany: The Prehistoric Food
Plants of the Near East and Europe
(New York: Columbia University Press,
1973), 132.

78. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 21.

79. See section in this chapter on “Botanical

80. J. M. Renfrew, Palaeoethnobotany, 133–34.

81. Peter Warren, Myrtos: An Early Bronze Age Settlement in
(London: Thames & Hudson for the British School of Archaeology at
Athens, 1972), 293.

82. Pansiot and
Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation,

83. On the
significance of the “nethermost parts of the vineyard,” see question
8 later in this chapter.

84. See the section in this chapter on “Botanical
Characteristics and Cultural Practices;” and Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 4,

85. Ibid., 24.

86. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

87. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European Olive‑Tree,

88. Pansiot and
Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation,
44–48, 161.

89. Ibid., 44–57.

90. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 16–17.

91. Bioletti and
Colby, “Olives,” 3.

92. Pansiot and
Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation,

93. Ibid.

94. Ibid., 83.

95. Ibid., 14–16.

96. Ibid., 57.

97. Warren, Myrtos: An Early Bronze Age Settlement in
, 256.

98. K. D. White, Roman Farming (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1970), 225.

99. Cotterell, Origins of European Civilization, 14–15.

100. Hubert Elant, “Improvement
and Rehabilitation of Traditional Olive Groves,” in Guillén et al., eds., Modern Olive-Growing, 237.

101. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 83.

102. White, Roman Farming, 227.

103. Scaramuzzi, “Intensive
Olive‑Growing,” 63–64.

104. Llamas, “Fertilizing
the Olive Grove,” 99.

105. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 105.

106. Ibid., 86–87.

107. Ibid., 198.

108. White, Roman Farming, 226.

109. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 99.

110. Ibid., 108.

111. Ibid., 111.

112. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 29–30.

113. Bioletti and Colby, “Olives,”

114. Elant, “Improvement
and Rehabilitation of Traditional Olive Groves,” 241–42.

115. Ibid., 243.

116. Ibid.

117. Ibid., 241.

118. Ibid., 242.

119. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 120–21.

120. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 109.

121. Ibid.

122. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 67–68.

123. Hudson T. Hartmann,
Dale E. Kester, and Fred T. Davies, Jr., Plant
Propagation Principles and Practices
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall,
1990), 332.

124. Ibid., 336.

125. Hudson T. Hartmann, “Rootstock
Effects in the Olive,” Proceedings
of the American Society for Horticultural Science
72 (1959): 249–50.

126. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 121.

127. Partridge, Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of
Modern English
, 479.

128. White, Roman Farming, 227.

129. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 14.

130. Ibid., 142.

131. Ibid., 157.

132. Ibid.

133. Laws of Eshnunna, 7–11.

134. Ze’ev W. Falk, Hebrew Law in Biblical Times (Jerusalem:
Wahrmann, 1964), 107.

135. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 22–23.

136. Ibid., 17.

137. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 302.

138. Jacobini, Battaglini,
and Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 55.

139. Robert W. Schery, Plants for Man, 2d ed. (Englewood
Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice‑Hall, 1972), 346.

140. Elant, “Improvement
and Rehabilitation of Traditional Olive Groves,” 242.

141. Jacobini, Battaglini,
and Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 30–31.

142. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 16.

143. Ibid., 142.

144. Ibid., 124.

145. Ibid., 153.

146. Cecie Starr and Ralph
Taggart, Biology: The Unity and Diversity
of Life
, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1989), 505–7.

147. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 121.

148. Ibid., 125.

149. Jacobini, Battaglini,
and Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 41.

150. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 77–79.

151. White, Roman Farming, 227.

152. Hartmann, Kester, and
Davies, Plant Propagation Principles and
, 336.

153. White, Roman Farming, 225.

154. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 107.

155. Bioletti and Colby, “Olives,”

156. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

157. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 142.

158. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 14.

159. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 204.

160. Ibid., 69.

161. See section on “Early
History and Domestication,” in this chapter.

162. Jacobini, Battaglini,
and Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 27; Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

163. White, Roman Farming, 227.

164. Jacobini, Battaglini,
and Preziosi, “Propagation of the Olive Tree,” 27–59.

165. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 83

166. White, Roman Farming, 225.

167. Boardman, The Olive in the Mediterranean, 187–96.

168. J. M. Renfrew, Palaeoethnobotany, 134.

169. Zohary and Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World,

170. Pansiot and Rebour, Improvement in Olive Cultivation, 5.

171. C. Renfrew, The Emergence of Civilisation, 293–94.

172. Alan J. B. Wace, “Mycenae
1939–1952: The House of the Oil Merchant,” Annual of the British School at Athens 48 (1953): 9–15.

173. Seymour Gitin, “Last
Days of the Philistines,” Archaeology 45/3 (May-June 1992): 28–29.

174. Hartmann et al., Plant Science, 615.

175. See section on “Fruit
and Oil,” earlier in this chapter.

176. Bioletti and Colby, “Olives,”

177. “Olive Oil,” Consumer Reports (Oct. 1991): 667–71.

178. Hillhouse, History and Cultivation of the European
, 15–16.

179. Ibid., 16.

180. Elant, “Improvement
and Rehabilitation of Traditional Olive Groves,” 242.

181. Warren, Myrtos: An Early Bronze Age Settlement in
, 293.

182. Bioletti and Colby, “Olives,”

183. John Gerard, The Herbal or General History of Plants: The
Complete 1633 Edition as Revised and Enlarged by Thomas Johnson
(New York:
Dover, 1633 [1975]), 1393–94.

184. Thomas C. Upham,
trans., Jahn’s Biblical Archaeology (Andover: Flagg and Gould, 1823), 79–80.