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Russian olive

Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

Small deciduous tree with silvery foliage. Russian olive can reach 30’ and twigs have a terminal spine. Twigs are also covered by small silvery scales.


Regulated areas of Russian olive
Russian olive is Restricted (Orange counties)

Other names for this plant include:

  • Common names: oleaster
  • Scientific names: E. hortensis; E. moorcroftii; E. orientalis

Ecological threat:

  • Russian olive invades open areas, including wet areas; it uses water more quickly than native species, and it can dry out riparian areas.
  • Alters nutrient cycling by adding nitrogen to the soil.

Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted

Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for Russian olive was based upon this literature review developed by the department.


Leaves: Simple and alternate. Russian olive’s leaves are silver on both sides, longer and more lance-shaped. It has a gray-green hue when seen from a distance.

Flowers: Tube- or bell-shaped, fragrant, and borne in leaf axils. Bloom in late spring. Russian olive flowers are yellow inside and silver outside.

Fruits & seeds: Fruits are yellow, dry, and olive-like; they are readily dispersed by birds.

Roots: Associated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Cutting or other damage causes root suckering.

Similar species: Two native buffaloberries, silver (Sheperdia argentea) and russet (S. canadensis), have silvery foliage but their leaves are opposite. Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata; invasive) grows to be 20’ tall. Its leaves are dark green on top and silver-gray on the underside, lance-shaped or elliptic, with entire, wavy margins. Flowers are creamy white to light yellow and the fruits are small, fleshy, egg-shaped, pink to red with silver scales olive. Autumn olive tends to invade open and forested natural areas, as well as roadsides and agricultural fields.


Known county distribution of Russian olive
Counties in WI where Russian olive has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.

Do you have Russian olive in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.


Mechanical: Pull seedlings. Cutting, mowing, and burning not recommended because plants will resprout unless followed up with chemical control.

Chemical: Treat foliage, cut surface, or girdled stem with glyphosate, triclopyr ester, or metsulfuron methyl with a surfactant. Basal bark application of triclopyr ester can also be effective.


View Russian olive pictures in our photo gallery!


Sources for content:

  • Czarapata, Elizabeth; Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest: an illustrated guide to their identification and control. University of Wisconsin Press. 2005. Pg. 90
  • Colorado State Parks. Best Management Practices Weed Profile: Russian olive.
  • Muzika, Rose-Marie and Jil M. Swearingen. Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group. Least Wanted: Russian olive [exit DNR]. Last revised June 27, 2006.

Links for More Information

Last revised: Monday June 03 2019