florida Early Detection Network


Russian olive, Oleaster


Elaeagnus angustifolia L.


Oleaster family


Elaeagnus angustifolia

Leaves and flowers

Close-up of flowers


Synonyms: None


Botanical Glossary

Elaeagnus angustifolia is a shrub or small tree that can grow to 10 m (35 ft.) 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 3-10 cm (1-4 in.) long and have silver scales on both sides. The fragrant flowers are 1.2-1.5 cm (0.5 in.) wide, silvery outside and yellow within. There are 1-3 flowers within the leaf axils. They appear in May to June. The fruit are 1 cm (0.4 in.) long, are yellow and almost completely covered by densely silver scales. The fruit contain one large seed that can be up to 1 cm (0.4 in.) long within. Page References Bailey 717, Fernald 1045, Gleason & Cronquist 307, Holmgren 288, Magee & Ahles 757. See reference section below for full citations.


Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. (Autumn olive)


The fruit of Elaeagnus angustifolia is dispersed mostly by birds as well as small mammals.


Elaeagnus angustifolia has a wide native range in Asia. It has been reported in most states because of its widespread planting. However, in the western part of the United States it is considered a major pest species, having escaped cultivation in 17 states. This plant has been reported from all the states of New England.


Elaeagnus angustifolia was first introduced into the United States in the late 1800's. It was planted widely in western states in the early 1900's as a windbreak and for wildlife food and shelter. In the west, it was reported as escaping from cultivation in the 1940's to 1960's. Elaeagnus angustifolia was introduced into New England through plantings along roadsides and in garden settings.


Abandoned Field, Abandoned Gravel Pit, Early Successional Forest, Edge, Open Disturbed Area, Pasture, Planted Forest, Railroad Right-of-Way, Roadside, Utility, Right-of-Way, Vacant Lot, Yard or Garden. Elaeagnus angustifolia is found planted along roads, in pastures, fields and along rivers. It can tolerate moist to dry conditions, as well as most soil types.


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.


Plant Conservation Alliance Fact sheet including management information

Illinois Nature Preserves Commission Control information for Elaeagnus umbellata, which has similar control measures

Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) Control information for Elaeagnus umbellata, which has similar control measures


Documentation required: Herbarium specimen or mounted snippet of a branch with flowers or fruits. Best time for documentation: Spring, summer, fall.


Integrated Taxonomic Information System Taxonomic information

The PLANTS Database General information and a map

University of Connecticut Plants Database Images and descriptive information

USDA Forest Service Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) Extensive ecological information about the species

National Park Service Fact sheet that includes general information, images and control.

Virginia Native Plant Society, Virginia department of Cosnervation and Recreation General information including control

Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Photographs and general information

Invasivespecies.gov Additional links


Bovey, R.W. 1965. Control of Russian olive by aerial application of herbicides. Journal of Range Management 42: 407-411.

Bailey, L.H. 1949. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan, New York.

Christensen, E.M. 1963. Naturalization of Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) in Utah. American Midland Naturalist 70(1):133-137.

Deiter, L. 1996. Elaeagnus angustifolia. p.53. In Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli. [eds.]. Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden Inc., New York.

Dirr, M.A. 1983. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Stipes Publishing Company, Champaign, Illinois.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th edition. American Book Company, New York.

Gleason, H. A. 1952. The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. New York

Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Katz, G.L., J.M. Friedman and S.W. Beatty. 2001. Effects of physical disturbance and granivory on establishment of native and alien riparian trees in Colorado, U.S.A. Diversity and Distributions 7:1-14.

Klich, M.G. 2000. Leaf variations in Elaeagnus angustifolia related to environmental heterogeneity. Environmental and Experimental Botany 44 (3):171-183.

Knopf, F.L and T.E. Olson. 1984. Naturalization of Russian-olive: implications to Rocky Mountain wildlife. Wildlife Society Bulletin 12:289-298.

Lesica, P. and S. Miles. 1999. Russian olive invasion into cottonwood forests along a regulated river into north-central Montana. Canadian Journal of Botany 77:1077-1083.

Llinares, F., D. Munozmingarro, J.M. Pozuelo, B. Ramos and F.B. Decastro. 1993. Microbial inhibition and nitrification potential in soils incubated with Elaeagnus angustifolia L. leaf-litter. Geomicrobiology Journal 11 (3-4): 149-156.

Magee, D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

Olson, T.E. and F.L. Knopf. 1986. Naturalization of Russian-olive in the western United States. Western Journal of Applied Forestry 1: 65-69.

Pearce, C.M. and D.G. Smith. 2001. Plains cottonwood's last stand: can it survive invasion of Russian olive onto the Milk River, Montana floodplain? Environmental Management 28(5):623-637.

Royer, T.V., M.T. Monaghan and G.W. Minshall. 1999. Processing of native and exotic leaf liter in two Idaho (U.S.A.) streams. Hydrobiologica 400:123-128.

Shafroth, P.B., G.T. Auble and M.L. Scott. 1995. Germination and establishment of native plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marshall subsp. Monilifera) and exotic Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.). Conservation Biology 9(5):1169-1175.

Simons, S.B. and T.R. Seastedt. 1999. Decomposition and nitrogen release from foliage of cottonwood (Populus deltoides) and Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in a riparian ecosystem. Southwestern Naturalist 44 (3): 256-260.

USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.