Elaeagnus angustifolia

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Legend for Species Pages

Russian Olive

Elaeagnus angustifolia
  • Moss, Flora of Alberta – An escape
  • Global Invasive Species Database – Yes[1]
  • NatureServe Rank – High
  • Haber, Upland – No
  • Haber, Wetland – No
  • CWF, Status & Invasive Range – Potential, BC, AB, MB, southern ON
  • Alberta Revegetation Guidelines – No
  • The Nature Conservancy – Yes, w/ ESA
  • CBCN – No
  • AB Weed – No


Introduced to North America from Eurasia in mid-1800's. Used for shelterbelts, ornamental plantings, and habitat "improvement". Propagates by seed and vegetatively. Carried by water, ice, birds, and other wildlife and naturalized remote from parent. Seed is viable up to 3 years. Seedlings compete for habitat with riverine Poplars (incl. Cottonwoods). Introduced at the Aageson Ranch MT, 10 km downstream from the Alberta border on the Milk River in 1950 and from there has spread both upstream into Alberta and downstream. Also on the Red Deer River, on the S. Saskatchewan River, on the Oldman River, and elsewhere in vicinity of Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. Prefers moist conditions, but naturalizes in very dry, saline, wet, and flooded conditions too. Has long, stiff thorns. Rarely utilized by beaver or browsers. Re-sprouts from herbicide-treated stumps. Aggressively invasive. Flowers and colour of foliage are very similar to Wolf Willow, but fruit, bark, habit of growth, and thorns easily set it apart. Also similar (from a distance) to Thorny Buffaloberry, which also has thorns and similar overall appearance, but very different flowers and fruit.

Sale and deliberate propagation of Russian olive has been banned in Montana. [2]

In flower, C.M.Pearce
In fruit, C.M.Pearce
Elaeangu 1.jpg
Elaeangu 2.jpg
Naturalized Russian Olive along a stream margin, C.M.Pearce
Russian Olive naturalized on a dry hillside, C.M.Pearce
Russian Olive stump, about 5 years after cutting and treatment with herbicide, C.M.Pearce
Naturalized Russian Olive on the Red Deer River, C.M.Pearce
Naturalized Russian Olive near Medicine Hat, C.M.Pearce
Naturalized Russian Olive on the S. Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat, C.M.Pearce


C.M. Pearce 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(4):623-637.

Abstract: Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) was introduced in 1950 onto one site on the Milk River floodplain, northern Montana, 10 km downstream from the Canada/United States border. To analyse dispersal of Russian olive from the point source between 1950 and 1999, we compared distribution, numbers, size structure, and mortality of Russian olive and plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marsh.) on an unregulated reach of the Milk river floodplain in southeastern Alberta and north-central Montana. Within 50 years, Russian olive in this reach has moved upriver into Alberta and downriver to the Fresno Reservoir. It is now present on 69 of the 74 meander lobes sampled, comprising 34%, 62%, and 61% of all Russian olive and plains cottonwood seedlings, saplings, and trees respectively. On some meander lobes, Russian olive has colonized similar elevations on the floodplain as plains cottonwood and is oriented in rows paralleling the river channel, suggesting that recruitment may be related to river processes. Breakup ice had killed 400 Russian olive saplings and trees and damaged > 1000 others on 30 of the meander lobes in 1996. Nevertheless, Russian olive now outnumbers cottonwood on many sites on the Milk River floodplain because its seeds can be dispersed by wildlife (particularly birds) and probably by flood water and ice rafts; seeds are viable for up to 3 years and germination can take place on bare and well-vegetated soils; and saplings and trees are less palatable to livestock and beaver than plains cottonwood. Without control, Russian olive could be locally dominant on the Milk River flood plain in all age classes within 10 years and replace plains cottonwood within this [21st] century.

Russian olive in Wikipedia [3]

USDA National Invasive Species Information Centre [4]

Map of states in US where found to be invasive, Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States [5]

USDA Database, Plants Profile [6]

Shafroth, P.B., Brown, C.A., and Merritt, D.M., eds., 2010, Saltcedar and Russian olive control demonstration act science assessment: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5247, 143 p. [7]

PATRICK B. SHAFROTH, GREGOR T. AUBLE, MICHAEL L. SCOTT, Germination and Establishment of the Native Plains Cottonwood (Populus deltoides Marshall subsp. monilifera) and the Exotic Russian-olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.), Conservation Biology Volume 9, Issue 5, pages 1169–1175, October 1995, Article first published online: 18 SEP 2009. DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1995.9051159.x-i1. Abstract: [8]

John G. Carman and Jack D. Brotherson, Comparisons of Sites Infested and Not Infested with Saltcedar (Tamarix pentandra) and Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), Weed Science Vol. 30, No. 4 (Jul., 1982), pp. 360-364, JStor: [9]

Earl M. Christensen, Naturalization of Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) in Utah, American Midland Naturalist Vol. 70, No. 1 (Jul., 1963), pp. 133-137, JStor: [10]

Jonathan M. Friedman, Gregor T. Auble, Patrick B. Shafroth, Michael L. Scott, Michael F. Merigliano, Michael D. Freehling and Eleanor R. Griffin, Dominance of non-native riparian trees in western USA, BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS Volume 7, Number 4 (2005), 747-751, DOI: 10.1007/s10530-004-5849-z. Abstract: [11], PDF from USGS: [12]

Gabrielle L. Katz and Patrick B. Shafroth, Biology, ecology and management of Elaeagnus angustifolia L. (Russian olive) in western North America, WETLANDS Volume 23, Number 4 (2003), 763-777, DOI: 10.1672/0277-5212(2003)023[0763:BEAMOE]2.0.CO;2, Abstract: [13], PDF: [14]

Brock, J. H., Plant invasions: ecological threats and management solutions 2003 pp. 267-276, from 6th International Conference on the Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions (EMAPi), 12 to 15 September 2001, Loughborough, UK. Abstract: [15]

D. F. Hamilton, P. L. Carpenter, Regulation of seed dormancy in Elaeagnus angustifolia by endogenous growth substances, Canadian Journal of Botany, 1976, 54(10): 1068-1073, 10.1139/b76-113, Abstract: [16]

Fritz L. Knopf and Thomas E. Olson, Naturalization of Russian-Olive: Implications to Rocky Mountain Wildlife, Wildlife Society Bulletin Vol. 12, No. 3 (Autumn, 1984), pp. 289-298, Abstract: [17], JStor: [18] (May also be available from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Ft. Collins, CO)

Fritz L. Knopf and Thomas E. Olson, Naturalization of Russian-Olive in the Western United States, Western Journal of Applied Forestry, Volume 1, Number 3, 1 July 1986 , pp. 65-69(5). Abstract: [19]

Mark Stannard, Dan Ogle, Larry Holzworth, Joe Scianna, Emmy Sunleaf, HISTORY, BIOLOGY, ECOLOGY, SUPPRESSION AND REVEGETATION OF RUSSIAN-OLIVE SITES Elaeagnus angustifolia L.), USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service Boise, Idaho – Bozeman, Montana – Spokane, Washington, Technical Notes, Plant Materials No. 47, March 2002. Download from USDA [20]