BugwoodWiki Article

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia L.

Overview

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.
Ecological Threat
Although Elaeagnus angustifolia is not considered to be invasive in New England at this time, in the western part of the United States it is considered invasive as well as a noxious weed in some states. It grows especially well in riparian situations and has been documented as out-competing the native plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides). It has been planted along roads and highways in New England because of its drought and salt tolerance. Nitrogen-fixing nodules allow this plant to survive in adverse conditions. Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), its invasive relative, has a similar biology and is already widely invasive in New England.

DESCRIPTION AND DIAGNOSTIC CHARACTERISTICS

Elaeagnus angustifolia is a shrub or small tree in the Oleaster family (Elaeagnaceae). It can grow up to 9 meters (30 feet) in height and is often thorny. The leaves of E. angustifolia are simple, alternate, lanceolate to oblong, 4-8 cm in length, and are entire (untoothed) along the leaf margins. The upper surface of its leaves are light green in color and are covered with silvery star-shaped hairs, and the lower surface of its leaves are silvery white and densely covered with scales.

E. angustifolia can flower and set fruit in three years. Flowers of E. angustifolia are produced in umbel-like inflorescences from the leaf axils, and are small, light yellow, highly aromatic, and bisexual. In North America, flowers are usually borne early in the growing season (June-July), shortly after leaf emergence. The olive-shaped fruits are dry and mealy, yellow-red in color, and are produced in great quantities (VNPS 2000). These mealy fruits are readily eaten by many species of birds, which works to disperse its seeds. Although E. angustifolia establishes primarily by seed, vegetative propagation can also occur.

E. angustifolia is sometimes confused with the closely related autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata), which is also an invasive species. E. angustifolia can be easily distinguished from E. umbellata, because E. angustifolia leaves are narrower, longer, and is often more silvery in color, while E. umbellata leaves are a bit greener. Branches of E. angustifolia are also flexible and usually thorny, whereas E. umbellata branches are not, and E. angustifolia has distinctive dry mealy yellow fruits (E. umbellata fruits are typically red-pink and juicy). It is also possible to confuse E. angustifolia with native Shepherdia species. Shepherdia and Elaeagnus are in the same family (Elaeagnaceae) and therefore share several characteristics, but the leaves of Elaeagnus are alternately arranged while Shepherdia leaves are oppositely arranged.

Resources

Selected Images


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5396471

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Tree(s)
Robert Vidéki
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9005085

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Fruit(s)
Barry Rice
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2307046

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Fruit(s)
Patrick Breen
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5402542

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Flower(s)
Joseph Berger
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2307049

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Feature(s)
Patrick Breen
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5392129

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Flower(s)
John M. Randall
2307045
2307045

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Foliage
Patrick Breen
0008139
0008139

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Flower(s)
Paul Wray
0008268
0008268

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Fruit(s)
Paul Wray
0008428
0008428

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Foliage
Paul Wray
2189089
2189089

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Foliage
Chris Evans
0008537
0008537

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Twig(s)/Shoot(s)
Paul Wray
2307050
2307050

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Bark
Patrick Breen
5307037
5307037

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Seed(s)
Steve Hurst
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2189081

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Plant(s)
Chris Evans
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2189095

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Plant(s)
Chris Evans
1237067
1237067

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Infestation
J. Scott Peterson
1459402
1459402

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Infestation
Steve Dewey
1459942
1459942

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Infestation
Steve Dewey
5345057
5345057

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Plant(s)
David J. Moorhead
5345059
5345059

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia
Infestation
David J. Moorhead

Maps


EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit www.eddmaps.org

EDDMapS Distribution

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit Invasive.org

State Regulated List

Invasive Listing Sources

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Rhamnales
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Elaeagnus

Other System Links

Plants: ELAN
Bayer: ELGAN
GRIN: 14915
ITIS: 27770
NPDN Pest: PBQABBB
NPDN Host: 35109

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
Russian olive, oleaster

Categories

Category: Shrub or Subshrub
Category: Hardwood Trees