The expansion of cultivated olive trees goes back to the era of the Phoenicians and the Romans – these civilizations spread them to the rest of the world. Cultivated olive trees come from the domestication of the European olive tree known as olive spp silvestris, and from what we call ‘acebuches’ or wild olive trees. Here is a list of the different acebuche subspecies we can find around the world:
Olea europaea europaea (Mediterranean Basin)
Olea europaea cuspidata (from South Africa throughout the entirety of east Africa, from Arabia to southwest China)
Olea europaea. guanchica (Spain, Canary Islands)
Olea europaea cerasiformis (Madeira)
Olea europaea maroccana (Morocco)
Olea europaea laperrinei (Algeria, Sudan, Niger)
The Guanchica subspecies, which is from the Canary Islands and is only present on this archipelago. It is present in all the islands, although its biggest presence can be found on the island of Gran Canaria.
This wild olive tree species is small in size, has a trunk with grey bark and has small-sized fruit. The guanchica species is a dominant member in the so-called acebuche group. They are located in the lower part of the mountains at less than 600 m of altitude. They occupy ravines, slopes and the stony areas of the islands, where this species acclimatizes perfectly. Although its fruit is not used, this species is well appreciated for its wood. In fact, in pre-Hispanic times it was used as fuel and for making farming tools and weapons. These included staffs, which were used by shepherds of the island to herd cattle. They were also used for fighting competitively. Nowadays, it is a sport which is regulated and practiced on the Islands. There is a saying which comes from this practice which states, “There is no stick that can fight against an acebuche.”
The presence and the origin of guanchica have made olive trees more relevant on the islands. Proof of this is the 70,000 olive trees that can be found through the archipelago. Given the growing demand for both EVOO consumption and production, there are already some initiatives being carried out by the organizations. These initiatives seek to ensure that cultivated olive trees thrive in this archipelago and adapt to the environmental conditions of the Islands, thus giving olive trees an agronomic, ethnographic and scenic value that cannot be matched.