Image of mature Russian Olive treeThe Russian Olive was introduced into the United States during the later years of the "wild west" as an ornamental tree, a fast-growing windbreak and as an erosion control measure, no doubt to aid the farming industry of the time. It is a tree capable of living in extremely dry and wet soils as well as high salinity. It was originally cultivated in Germany in the mid 1700's in Europe and is native to most of Europe and Asia, which covers a broad range of climates.

The fruit of the Russian Olive is a favorite among birds, and coupled with it's adaptability, bird-deposited seeds can show up anywhere and the subsequent plant can thrive in almost any conditions without cultural practices designed to destroy it. Because it is so adaptable, this tree that was once recommended by US Soil Conservation Service to be planted. However, it is now considered an invasive species in many parts of the country.

Image of E. angustifolia leavesFor all of the discussion of it's invasiveness and uses, as an ornamental plant it has some viable uses. Of particular interest is the almost slate-colored foliage, it's bluish-greenish-gray leaves appearing in April or May. The foliage is lanceolate or oblong, 1-3 inches long and "- " wide. At close inspection the blooms are an attractive, warm yellow and appear in late May through June, and are approximately 3/8" in diameter.

Russian Olive flowersAs a long-term ornamental plant, it would seem there are better choices that can be made than Elaeagnus angustifolia. It has a tendency to have significant dieback after it reaches a certain size and age, leaving it's owner with an uneven foliated tree and lots of dead wood to trim out. It's a fast growing tree, but it's also a weak-wooded tree. It's root system also does not anchor the plant to the soil like one would want to see - evidence can be found strewn along highway medians after strong storms, with Russian Olives being toppled or having large branches on relatively young trees snapped off. This tree has a life expectancy of 20-30 years.

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Plant Specifications

Areas of Growth:
USDA Zones 3-8
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8

Plant Size:
Height and Width of tree at maturityHeight: 18'-20'
Width: Up to 30'

Plant Needs
Full SunThe Russian Olive can survive and thrive in wet or dry conditions

Growth Rate:Soil Type:
Fast Growth RateSand, loam and clay graphic

Foliage Color
Blue Summer FoliageColor does not change in fall

Yellow FlowerSpring Flowers

Other Information
Border Plant
Wind Break
Foliage Color Interest
Salt Tolerant
Mass Plantings

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Russian Olive