PLants evergreen shrubs or trees, up to 30 m tall, with a hard wood; bark rough, dark brown; young stems glabrous, more or less 4-angular in cross-section. Leaves leathery; peioles 1-13 mm long; blades lanceolate to elliptic, 2-9.5 cm long, 4-25 mm wide, lower surfaces densely covered with small circular scales giving them a silvery or golden appearance, upper surfaces glossy, dark green, bases cuneate, tips apiculate. Inflorescences with many, sweetly scented flowers. Calyces cup-shaped, about 0.75 mm long, with minute lobes; corollas about 2.5 mm long, white, lobes elliptic-acute, much longer than the corolla tube; anthers about 1.5 mm long. Drupes 5-60 mm long, and 4-20 mm wide, ellipsoid to subglobose.
The World Flora Online recognizes six subspecies of Olea europaea. Olea europaea subsp. cuspidata is native through from southern Africa, through Arabia and southern Pakistan to southwestern China. It differs from the cultivated olive, Olea europaea subp, europaea, in having drupes only 5-7 mm long and in being less fleshy.