Russian olive

Elaeagnus angustifolia

Invader Images

    • Russian olive has silvery scales covering both sides of its leaves
      Russian olive has silvery scales covering both sides of its leaves
    • Russian olive flower
      Russian olive flower

Common Look-alikes

    • invasive plant Autumn olive, Alternate long oval leaves, with silvery undersides, and slight wave to the edge
      invasive plant Autumn olive, Alternate long oval leaves, with silvery undersides, and slight wave to the edge

Identification

Appearance

Elaeagnus angustifolia is a shrub or small tree that can grow to 35 ft. (10 m) tall. The young branches are silvery while the older branches are brown. They are occasionally thorny and covered with scales.

Foliage

The leaves are simple, alternate and lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate. They are 1-4 in. (3-10 cm) long and have silver scales on both sides.

Flowers

The fragrant flowers are 0.5-0.6 in. (1.2-1.5 cm) wide, silvery outside and yellow within. There are 1-3 flowers within the leaf axils. They appear in May to June.

Fruit

The fruit are 0.4 in. (1 cm) long, are yellow and almost completely covered by densely silver scales. The fruit contain one large seed that can be up to 0.4 in. (1 cm) long within.

 

Biology

ECOLOGICAL THREAT

These shrubs are highly competitive against native species, shading out shorter plants. Their nitrogen-fixing capabilities may adversely affect the nitrogen cycle of native communities that depend on infertile soils. Although Russian and autumn olive provide a plentiful source of berries for birds, their fruits are actually quite low in nutrients. Ecologists have found that bird species richness is higher in riparian areas dominated by native vegetation.

ORIgIN

Both Russian and autumn olive were introduced into the United States in the 1800s. Prized for their silvery foliage, hardiness and plentiful berries, these shrubs were planted as ornamentals, for erosion control and windbreaks, and in wildlife food plots.

HABITAT

Forest, forest edge, meadows, fields, disturbed areas

LIFE CYCLE

Small yellow or white flowers become edible fruits in late summer and fall, which are red in autumn olive and orange in Russian olive.

Management Options

This is considered a watch list species

MECHANICAL MANAGEMENT

Young seedlings can be pulled by hand when the soil is moist enough to ensure complete removal of the root system. Small saplings can be pulled sufficiently with a wrenching tool. Larger individuals can be cut at ground level or girdled. Cutting is an initial control measure and should be followed by another type of treatment and monitoring.

CHEMICAL MANAGEMENT

Use a systemic herbicide, such as glyphosate or triclopyr. Herbicide should be applied immediately to cut stumps to prevent regeneration. It can also be applied to girdle wounds or directly to the lower bark using the basal bark method. Large thickets, where risk to non-target species is minimal, can be controlled by the foliar spray method.

 

**Be careful not to damage or kill nearby native plants when conducting management work. And when using herbicides, always follow the instructions on the label.**