Elaeagnus angustifolia L.
Plant Type: Tree
Deciduous, thorny tree or large shrub to 35 feet (10 m) in height with a single trunk.
Russian olive bark is dark brown and densely fissured. Branches smooth and reddish brown.
Twigs slender, thorny, and silver scaly becoming glossy and greenish. Pith pale brown to orange brown.
Alternate, long-lanceolate to oblanceolate measuring 1.5 to 4 inches (4 to 10 cm) long and 0.4 to 1.2 inches (1 to 3 cm) wide. Margins entire (rarely toothed). Green to slightly silvery above with dense silver scales beneath. Petioles short and silvery.
Fragrant flowers appear in axillary clusters, each with 5 to 10 silvery-white to yellow tubular blossoms with four lobes April to July.
Fruit and seeds
Drupelike, hard fleshy fruit 0.5 inch (1.2 cm) wide and long, resembling an olive ripens August to October. They are light green to yellow (sometimes tinged with red), coated with silvery scales, and each bears one nutlet.
Photo: Patrick Breen, Oregon State University, Bugwood.org
More images of Elaeagnus angustifolia
Russian olive is an introduced, fast-growing large woody shrub or tree in the Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster) family. It is deciduous and thorny growing 12 to 35 feet (10 m) in height typically with a single trunk, many long narrow leaves, and many yellow fruit covered with minute silvery scales.
Found as scattered plants in forest openings, open forests, and along
forest edges, it thrives in sandy floodplains. It is shade intolerant, and spreads by bird- and other animal-dispersed seeds. Russian olive is one a few non-leguminous plants able to fix nitrogen in the soil, giving it an edge in poor soils.
Origin and Distribution
Native to Europe and western Asia, Russian olive is a recent (early 1900s) arrival in the upper part of the Southeast. It was initially planted as a yard ornamental, for windbreaks, surface mine reclamation, and wildlife habitat. Other states where invasive: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, MD, MI, MN, MT, NC, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, SD, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI. Federal or state listed as noxious weed, prohibited, invasive, or banned: CO, CT, NM.
Sources: Information on this plant page derived primarily from the Tennessee Management Manual and James H. Miller’s Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, USDA Forest Service.
Cutting: Cut trees at ground level with power or manual saws. Cutting is most effective when trees have begun to flower to prevent seed production. Because autumn olive spreads by suckering, resprouts are common after treatment. Cutting is an initial control measure, and success will require either an herbicidal control or repeated cutting of resprouts.
Girdling: Use this method on large trees where the use of herbicides is not practical. Using a hand-axe, make a cut through the bark encircling the base of the tree, approximately 15 cm (6 in) above the ground. Be sure that the cut goes well into or below the cambium layer. This method will kill the top of the tree but resprouts are common, and may require follow-up treatments for several years until roots are exhausted.
Hand Pulling: Autumn olive is effectively controlled by manual removal of young seedlings. Plants should be pulled as soon as they are large enough to grasp, but before they produce seeds. Seedlings are best pulled after a rain when the soil is loose. The entire root must be removed since broken fragments may resprout.
Foliar Spray Method
This method should be considered for large thickets of autumn olive seedlings where risk to non-target species is minimal. Air temperature should be above 65°F to ensure absorption of herbicides.
Glyphosate: Apply a 2% solution of glyphosate and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic surfactant to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pat-tern to reduce spray drift damage to non-target species. Glyphosate is a non-selective systemic herbicide that may kill non-target, partially-sprayed plants.
Triclopyr: Apply a 2% solution of triclopyr and water plus a 0.5% non-ionic sur-factant to thoroughly wet all leaves. Use a low pressure and coarse spray pattern to reduce spray drift damage to non-target species. Triclopyr is a selective herbicide for broadleaf species. In areas where desirable grasses are growing under or around autumn olive, triclopyr can be used without non-target damage.
Cut Stump Method
This control method should be considered when treating individual trees or where the presence of desirable species preclude foliar application. Stump treatments can be used as long as the ground is not frozen.
Glyphosate: Horizontally cut stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 50% solution of glyphosate and water to the cut stump, covering the outer 20% of the stump.
Triclopyr: Horizontally cut stems at or near ground level. Immediately apply a 50% solution of triclopyr and water to the cut stump, covering the outer 20% of the stump.
Basal Bark Method
This method is effective throughout the year as long as the ground is not frozen. Apply a mixture of 25% triclopyr and 75% horticultural oil to the basal parts of the tree to a height of 30-38 cm (12-15 in) from the ground. Thorough wetting is necessary for good control; spray until run-off is noticeable at the ground line.