Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)


Appearance: Large deciduous shrub or small tree, up to 25' tall. Spreading branches form into a dense rounded crown. Thin bark comes off in narrow, elongate, fibrous strips. Twigs are very flexible and bear a terminal spine.

Leaves: Alternate, distinctive silver-gray lance shaped.

Flowers: Yellow spicy-fragrant flowers are borne either individually or in small clusters in the leaf axils, blooming in late spring.

Fruit: Dry, olive-like, hard; seeds remain viable in the soil for three years.

Roots: Deep taproot, is capable of fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Ecological Threat:

  • Russian olive quickly takes over streambanks, lake shores and prairies, choking out native vegetation of riparian habitat. It tolerates shade and a variety of soil moisture conditions. It interferes with nutrient cycling and taxes water reserves.
  • It also propagates vegetatively by sprouts from buds formed on the root crown and by root suckers.
  • Russian olive is a native of southern Europe and western Asia it was introduced to North America as an ornamental and as a windbreak plant in the late 1800s.
  • It can grow on bare mineral soil which encouraged planting it on mine spoils.


Control Methods:


  • Cut-stump treatment with glyphosate; cut-stump or basal bark spray treatment around the stem with triclopyr


  • Natural disease affect Russian olive to a great extent, such as Verticillium wilt and Phomopsis canker


Native Substitutes:

Additional Resources