For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Oleaceae.


Olive (Olea europaea)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Oleaceae
Hoffmanns. & Link
  • Bolivariaceae Griseb.
  • Forstiereae (Forstieraceae) Endl.
  • Fraxineae (Fraxinaceae) S.F. Gray
  • Iasmineae (Iasminaceae) Link
  • Jasmineae (Jasminaceae) Juss.
  • Lilacaceae Ventenat
  • Nyctantheae (Nyctanthaceae) J.G. Agardh
  • Syringaceae Horan.

Oleaceae, also known as the olive family or sometimes the lilac family, is a taxonomic family of flowering shrubs, trees, and a few lianas in the order Lamiales.[1] It presently comprises 28 genera, one of which is recently extinct.[2] The extant genera include Cartrema, which was resurrected in 2012.[3] The number of species in the Oleaceae is variously estimated in a wide range around 700. The flowers are often numerous and highly odoriferous.[4] The family has a subcosmopolitan distribution, ranging from the subarctic to the southernmost parts of Africa, Australia, and South America. Notable members include olive, ash, jasmine, and several popular ornamental plants including privet, forsythia, fringetrees, and lilac.[5]


The following 29 extant genera are recognized in the family Oleaceae.[6] Linociera is not included, even though some authors continue to recognize it. Linociera is not easy to distinguish from Chionanthus, mostly because the latter is polyphyletic and not clearly defined.


The type genus for Oleaceae is Olea, the olives. Recent classifications recognize no subfamilies, but the family is divided into five tribes.[2] The distinctiveness of each tribe has been strongly supported in molecular phylogenetic studies, but the relationships among the tribes were not clarified until 2014.[7] The phylogenetic tree for Oleaceae is a 5-grade that can be represented as {Myxopyreae [Forsythieae (Fontanesieae <Jasmineae + Oleeae>)]}.

The major centers of diversity for Oleaceae are in Southeast Asia and Australia.[8] There are also a significant number of species in Africa, China,[9] and North America. In the tropics the family is represented in a variety of habitats, from low-lying dry forest to montane cloud forest. In Oleaceae, the seed dispersal is almost entirely by wind or animals. In the case that the fruit is a berry, the species is mostly dispersed by birds. The wind-dispersed fruits are samaras.

Some of the older works have recognized as many as 29 genera in Oleaceae.[10] Today, most authors recognize at least 25, but this number will change because some of these genera have recently been shown to be polyphyletic.

Estimates of the number of species in Oleaceae have ranged from 600 to 900. Most of the species number discrepancy is due to the genus Jasminum in which as few as 200[11] or as many as 450[12] species have been accepted.

In spite of the sparsity of the fossil record, and the inaccuracy of molecular-clock dating, it is clear that Oleaceae is an ancient family that became widely distributed early in its history. Some of the genera are believed to be relictual populations that remained unchanged over long periods because of isolation imposed by geographical barriers like the low-elevation areas that separate mountain peaks.


Members of the family Oleaceae are woody plants, mostly trees and shrubs; a few are lianas. Some of the shrubs are scandent, climbing by scrambling into other vegetation.

Leaves without stipules; simple or pinnately or ternately compound. The family is characterized by opposite leaves. Alternate or whorled arrangements are rarely observed, with some Jasminum species presenting a spiral configuration.[11] The laminas are pinnately veined and can be serrate, dentate or entire at the margin. Domatia are observed in certain taxa. The leaves may be either deciduous or evergreen, with evergreen species predominating in warm temperate and tropical regions, and deciduous species predominating in colder regions.

The flowers are most often bisexual and actinomorphic, occurring in racemes or panicles, and often fragrant. The calyx and corolla, when present, are gamosepalous and gamopetalous, respectively, their lobes connate, at least at the base. The androecium has 2 stamens. These are inserted on the corolla tube and alternate with the corolla lobes. The stigmas are two-lobed. The gynoecium consists of a compound pistil with two carpels. The ovary is superior with two locules. The placentation is axile. Ovules usually 2 per locule; sometimes 4, rarely many. Nectary disk, when present, encircling the base of the ovary. The plants are most often hermaphrodite but sometimes polygamomonoecious.

The fruit can be a berry, drupe, capsule or samaras.

The obvious feature that distinguishes Oleaceae and its sister family, Carlemanniaceae, from all others, is the fact that while the flowers are actinomorphic, the number of stamens is reduced to two.

Many members of the family are economically significant. The olive (Olea europaea) is important for its fruit and for the olive oil extracted from it. The ashes (Fraxinus) are valued for their tough wood. Forsythias, lilacs, jasmines, osmanthuses, privets, and fringe trees are valued as ornamental plants in gardens and landscaping. At least two species of jasmine are the source of an essential oil. Their flowers are often added to tea.


Carl Linnaeus named eight of the genera of Oleaceae in 1753 in his Species Plantarum.[13] He did not designate what we now know as plant families, but placed his genera in artificial groups for purposes of identification. After the work of Linnaeus, names for groups that included the genera of Oleaceae were used, but none of them was a valid publication of the family name Oleaceae. For example, Antoine Laurent de Jussieu, in his Genera Plantarum in 1789, placed them in an order which he called "Jasmineae".[14] In 1809, in a flora of Portugal, Johann Centurius Hoffmannsegg and Johann H.F. Link described at the taxonomic rank of family a group which they called "Oleinae".[15][16] Their description is now regarded as the establishment of what we now know as Oleaceae.[17]

The last revision of Oleaceae was published in 2004 in a series entitled The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants. Since that time, molecular phylogenetic work has shown that the next revision of Oleaceae must include substantial changes to the circumscription of genera.


Oleaceae is most closely related to the small Indo-Malesian family Carlemanniaceae. These two families form the second most basal clade in the order Lamiales, after Plocospermataceae.[18] The families Plocospermataceae, Carlemanniaceae, Oleaceae, and Tetrachondraceae form a polyphyletic group known as the "basal Lamiales", which is in contrast to the monophyletic "core Lamiales".[7]


Oleaceae is one of only a few major plant families for which no well-sampled molecular phylogenetic study has ever been conducted. The only DNA sequence study of the entire family sampled 76 species for two noncoding chloroplast loci, rps16 and trnL–F. Little was determined in this study, largely because the mutation rate in the chloroplast genome of Oleaceae is very low compared to that of most other angiosperm families.[19]

Also, the family is notorious for incongruence between phylogenies based on plastid and nuclear DNA. The most likely cause of this incongruence is reticulate evolution resulting from rampant hybridization.[20]

The delimitation of genera in Oleaceae has always been especially problematic. Some recent studies of small groups of related genera have shown that some of the genera are not monophyletic. For example, Olea section Tetrapilus is separate from the rest of Olea. It is a distinct group of 23 species and had been named as a genus, Tetrapilus, by João de Loureiro in 1790.[21]

The genus Ligustrum has long been suspected of having originated from within Syringa, and this was confirmed in a cladistic comparison of selected chloroplast genes.[22]

Osmanthus consists of at least three lineages whose closest relatives are not other lineages of Osmanthus.[23]

Chionanthus is highly polyphyletic, with its species scattered across the phylogenetic tree of the subtribe Oleinae. Its African species are closer to Noronhia than to its type species, the North American Chionanthus virginicus. Its Madagascan species are phylogenetically within Noronhia and will be formally transferred to it in a forthcoming paper.[20]

The monophyly of Nestegis is in considerable doubt, but few of its closest relatives have been sampled in phylogenetic studies.


  1. ^ Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). "An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III". Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. 161 (2): 105–121. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.2009.00996.x. hdl:10654/18083.
  2. ^ a b Peter S. Green. 2004. "Oleaceae". pages 296-306. In: Klaus Kubitzki (editor) and Joachim W. Kadereit (volume editor). The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants volume VII. Springer-Verlag: Berlin; Heidelberg, Germany. ISBN 978-3-540-40593-1
  3. ^ Nesom, Guy L. (2012). "Synopsis of American Cartrema" (PDF). Phytoneuron. 96: 1–11.
  4. ^ Vernon H. Heywood, Richard K. Brummitt, Ole Seberg, and Alastair Culham. Flowering Plant Families of the World. Firefly Books: Ontario, Canada. ISBN 978-1-55407-206-4.
  5. ^ Anthony Huxley, Mark Griffiths, and Margot Levy (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. The Macmillan Press,Limited: London. The Stockton Press: New York. ISBN 978-0-333-47494-5 (set).
  6. ^ "Oleaceae Hoffmanns. & Link | Plants of the World Online | Kew Science". Plants of the World Online. Retrieved 28 November 2023.
  7. ^ a b Refulio-Rodriguez, Nancy F.; Olmstead, Richard G. (2014). "Phylogeny of Lamiidae". American Journal of Botany. 101 (2): 287–299. doi:10.3732/ajb.1300394. PMID 24509797.
  8. ^ Armen L. Takhtajan (Takhtadzhian). Flowering Plants second edition (2009). Springer Science+Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4020-9608-2 (print) ISBN 978-1-4020-9609-9 (eBook). doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9609-9
  9. ^ Mei-chen Chang, Lien-ching Chiu, Zhi Wei, and Peter S. Green. 1996. "Oleaceae" pages 272-319. In: Wu Zhengyi, Peter H. Raven, and Hong Deyuan (editors). 1994 onward. Flora of China vol. 15: Myrsinaceae – Loganiaceae. Science Press: Beijing, China; and Missouri Botanical Garden Press: St. Louis, MO, USA. ISBN 978-0-915279-37-1(vol. 15) ISBN 978-0-915279-34-0 (set).
  10. ^ Flora ornamental española, VI (Araliaceae – Boraginaceae), 2010.
  11. ^ a b Peter S. Green and Diana Miller. 2009. The Genus Jasminum in Cultivation. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 978-1-84246-011-5.
  12. ^ David J. Mabberley. 2008. Mabberley's Plant-Book third edition (2008). Cambridge University Press: UK. ISBN 978-0-521-82071-4.
  13. ^ Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné). 1753. Species Plantarum, 1st edition, vol. 1, pages 6-9. Holmiae: Impensis Laurentii Salvii (Lars Salvius). (A facsimile with an introduction by William T. Stearn was published by the Ray Society in 1957).
  14. ^ Antoine Laurent de Jussieu. 1789. "ORDO IV Jasmineae" pages 104-106. In: Genera plantarum :secundum ordines naturales disposita, ....
  15. ^ Oleaceae in International Plant Names Index.
  16. ^ Johann Centurius von Hoffmannsegg and Johann H.F. Link. 1809. Flore Portugaise ou description de toutes des plantes ... 1:62.
  17. ^ James L. Reveal. 2008 onward. "A Checklist of Family and Suprafamilial Names for Extant Vascular Plants." At: Home page of James L. Reveal and C. Rose Broome.
  18. ^ Peter F. Stevens (2001 onwards). "Oleaceae" At: Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. At: Botanical Databases At: Missouri Botanical Garden Website.
  19. ^ Wallander, Eva; Albert, Victor A. (2000). "Phylogeny and classification of Oleaceae based on rps16 and trnL-F sequence data". American Journal of Botany. 87 (12): 1827–41. doi:10.2307/2656836. JSTOR 2656836. PMID 11118421.
  20. ^ a b Hong-Wa, Cynthia; Besnard, Guillaume (2013). "Intricate patterns of phylogenetic relationships in the olive family as inferred from multi-locus plastid and nuclear DNA sequence analyses: a close-up on Chionanthus and Noronhia (Oleaceae)"". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 67 (2): 367–378. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2013.02.003. PMID 23415987.
  21. ^ Tetrapilus in International Plant Names Index.
  22. ^ Li, Jianhua; Goldman-Huertas, Benjamin; DeYoung, Jeffrey; Alexander III, John (2012). "Phylogenetics and Diversification of Syringa Inferred from Nuclear and Plastid DNA Sequences". Castanea. 77 (1): 82–88. doi:10.2179/11-016. S2CID 83590628.
  23. ^ Guo, Shi-Quan; Xiong, Min; Ji, Chun-Feng; Zhang, Zhi-Rong; Li, De-Zhu; Zhang, Zhi-Yong (2011). "Molecular phylogenetic reconstruction of Osmanthus Lour. (Oleaceae) and related genera based on three chloroplast intergenic spacers". Plant Systematics and Evolution. 294 (1–2): 57–64. doi:10.1007/s00606-011-0445-z. S2CID 21252789.
  • Media related to Oleaceae at Wikimedia Commons
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?