Russian Olive
Elaeagnus angustifoliaElaeagnaceae
Whole Plant
Whole PlantFlowerLeafLeaf
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Oleaster

The Plant:

  • A shrub or small tree, growing up to 35 feet tall.

The Leaves:

  • simple
  • alternate
  • lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate
  • silver scales on top and bottom of leaf

The Stem:

  • young silvery branches
  • older branches brown
  • occasionally thorny
  • covered with scales

The Flowers:

  • Fragrant four-petaled flowers are silvery outside and deep yellow within. One to three flowers grow from each leaf axil. Blooms from May to June.

The Fruits:

  • yellow
  • covered in densely silver scales
  • contain one large seed
  • dry and mealy

The Habitat:

  • pastures, fields, river edges
  • forests or open areas
  • disturbed areas, roads,
  • tolerates moist to dry conditions


  • birds and small mammals spread the seeds

Key ID Features:

  • shrub
  • alternate
  • silver scales top and bottom of leaf
  • young silvery branches
  • scales
  • fragrant
  • yellow
  • silvery scaled dry fruit

Similar Species:

  • Russian Olive (E. angustifolia) and Autumn Olive (E. umbellata) look very similar, even to the trained eye.
  • Russian Olive has linear, narrow leaves, with the upper leaf surface sparsely silver and lower surface densely silver. Autumn Olive has an elliptical shape with an upper leaf surface that is rarely silver and a lower surface sparsely silver with brown scales. Autumn Olive flowers are cream to pale yellow, and its fruits are juicy and red or sometimes orange to gold. Russian Olive flowers are brighter yellow and its fruits are larger, dry and yellow with silvery scales.


  • The nitrogen fixing abilities can effect native species which are adapted to infertile soils. Due to its heavy fruiting, rapid growth, tolerance of poor soils, and seed dispersal by birds, these shrubs can out-compete native species.

Growth Form: Shrub

Origin: Asia

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Do not list at this time

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Does not meet criteria

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: no

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston