The 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.
For 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 ¼"- ½" 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.
As 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.
Areas of Growth:
USDA Zones 3-8
Width: Up to 30'
Growth Rate:Soil Type:
Foliage Color Interest
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