WSU Clark County Extension

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Russian Olive

Scientific name: Elaeagnus angustifolia

Type:Deciduous tree
Plant Requirements
Zone:3 to 8
Sun:Full sun
Plant Characteristics
Height:20 ft
Width:20 ft
Bloom:Spring flowers
Bloom Time:May to June
Bloom Color:White
Additional Characteristics



Wildlife value

Description Although Russian Olive is a short-lived tree, it can add color to the landscape and can be planted, due to extreme tolerance, in tough sites and poor soils. Also called oleaster. It was used extensively in windbreaks throughout the Great Plains in the 1930s and 1940s in association with government programs to help prevent soil erosion.

This is a deciduous tree which grows to 20’ in both height and width, forming a somewhat irregular crown. Leaves are simple, arranged in an alternate fashion, and have a lanceolate to oblong shape. Mature leaves are 2” to 4” in length, but only ½” wide. Leaves are dull green to almost gray and distinctly scaly above, silvery and scaly below.

Bell-shaped flowers appear in the spring (May through June). They are 3/8” to 5/8” inch long, very fragrant, and have a pleasing silvery or whitish color. Flowers morph to berry-like achenes (resembling olives), which are silvery reddish brown and ½” long. Fruit is attractive to wildlife.

There are sharp thorns on the branches.

This species prefers to grow in full sun and is considered drought tolerant. It prefers alkaline soils and thus is not common on the west sides of the cascades in the Pacific Northwest. Elaeagnus angustifolia is listed as an exotic invasive species in the Midwest. This species is now listed as a noxious weed by the U.S. federal government and many states.

Russian Olive is often killed by Verticillium wilt in the east in wet areas or poorly drained sites.
For assistance, contact Dr. Charles Brun (, (360) 397-6060 5701
Computing and Web Resources, PO Box 6234, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6234