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Russian Olive

Scientific Name:

Elaeagnus angustifolia




Riparian areas as well as coastlines, mountains, and dry riverbeds


Native to central Asia, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Introduced and resident in North America


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Russian olives are shrubs or small trees that can grow up to 35 feet tall. Although the narrow shape of their leaves and sage color resemble coyote willows, their reddish brown bark sets Russian olives apart. These trees are generally thorny and produce small yellow flowers in June and July. Russian olives get their name from the red fruits they produce that are shaped somewhat similarly to olives.

Fast Facts:

  • Russian olives are not considered to be invasive on the East Coast. However, in the western United States they are invasive. This is due to its fast growing capabilities which ultimately take over and shade large areas. Ultimately, this makes it more difficult for native plants - such as cottonwood trees - to succeed in growth.

  • Russian olives are nitrogen fixing plants. This means they pump nitrogen, a nutrient generally absorbed by plants, back into the soil. Ultimately this provides richer soil content for other plants to absorb.

  • While the fruit of Russian olives provide an extensive food source for birds, researchers have found that birds who consume native plants and berries are healthier than those who rely on invasives.

  • Russian olive fruit is also edible for humans and rich in fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E. The fruits are sweet and astringent in taste. In Iran, the fruit has been used to treat joint pain.



Bridget Mulkerin (research & content)

Max Whealon (research & content)

Alex Shahbazi (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

April 22, 2021 at 9:57:34 PM

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