Russian Olive

(Elaeagnus angustifoilia)

 

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© Patrick Breen

Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifoilia) is a perennial tree or shrub that is native in Europe and Asia. The plant has olive-shaped fruits, silver color at first then becoming yellow-red when mature. Russian olive can reproduce by seed or root suckers. Seeds are readily spread by birds and can remain viable for up to 3 years. Spring moisture and slightly alkaline soil tend to favor seedling growth. The plant’s extensive root system sprouts root suckers frequently. The tree can reach up to 30 feet in height with branches that have 1 to 2 inch thorns. Leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, alternate, narrow, and have simple blades with smooth edges. The leaf’s lower surface is silvery white, while the upper surface is light green in color. Flowers are 4 small sepals in light yellow clusters, fragrant, and appear May through June. Fruits mature from September to November. Russian olive twigs are flexible, reddish, and have surfaces coated with gray and scaly pubescence, becoming smooth.

Russian olive map