BugwoodWiki Article

Russian olive
Elaeagnus angustifolia L.


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.
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.
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.
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.


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.


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

State Invasives 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 Host: 35109

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
Russian olive, oleaster


Category: Shrub or Subshrub
Category: Hardwood Trees