A. Olive of the Temple of Hera Lacinia (Juno)
B. Olive of the Temple of Concordia
C. Olive of the Temple of Concordia (2)
D. Carob of the Temple of Zeus
E. The myrtles of Kolymbethra
F. Olive of Kolymbethra
G. Olive of Saint Mark (2)
The “Saracen olives” cited by Pirandello in his novel “I vecchi e i giovani”, the myrtles of Kolymbethra and the carob trees of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, noted for their extraordinary shapes and monumental dimensions, are testaments to the slow passage of time. Indeed, these trees were categorised as “monumental trees” and included on the list of “the great trees of Sicily”.
The grafting – where parts of plants are joined together to make them continue growing as one plant – of wild olives or ancient propagation practices may explain the presence of olives in the Valley, immortalising the sacred importance of the species along with the stories, legends and traditions so closely linked to their cultivation over the centuries.
The age of the trees is considerable yet impossible to pinpoint exactly as the accumulations of buds at the base of the trunk continually sprout into new trunks, overlapping the existing ones over the centuries.
This growing pattern explains the contorted shape and centuries-long survival of the trees that Pirandello dubbed “Saracen olives”. These enormous olive trees of extraordinary shapes and dimensions and almonds with evocative winter blossoms are the elements of the “Almond and Olive Grove” described by Luigi Pirandello to indicate the vegetation of the Valley of the Temples, and represent the park’s characteristic landscape. In recent decades, the park has planted special olive trees with more productive varieties to produce oil and table olives. The olive groves on the state-owned areas of the park produce oil under the Diodoros trademark which have been recognised for their quality and delicate flavour.