This story came early in Lovecraft's writing career, and is generally considered to be within his "Macabre" phase. Lovecraft's inspiration for the story likely came in part from the book The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, published in 1890. Of particular note is Machen's depiction of Pan as a power of nature.
"The Tree" was first published in The Tryout, 7, No. 7 (October 1921), [3-10].
"The Tree" is told in past tense, in third person objective. The location of the story is Mount Maenalus, in Arcadia, Greece, a mountain which was a "chosen haunt" for the Greek God Pan. The story opens with a vivid description of the olive grove, and a fearful, human-like olive tree within it.
The story then recounts a story from centuries ago, recalling the famous sculptors Kalos and Musides, whose works were praised throughout the known world. One day, the Tyrant of Syracuse invited Kalos and Musides to compete in the creation of "a wonder of nations and a goal of travelers". While working on their sculptures, Kalos fell ill, much to the dismay of Musides.
Musides proposed to erect an elaborate marble tomb for his friend, while Kalos asked only for the planting of olive twigs near his head. After the death of Kalos, Musides buried the olive twigs, in addition to constructing a tomb.
Over time, Musides felt haunted by the gnarled olive tree that grew over Kalos' grave. The tree's roots grew as if nourished by the unfinished sculpture of Kalos, while above Musides' labors a large branch had grown. The night before the statue was to be taken to the Tyrant of Syracuse, a tremendous storm came. With the fall of that one overhanging branch, both Musides and his statue were gone forever.