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Olive, Russian



Elaeagnus angustifolius  (eel-ee-AG-nus an-gus-ti-FOAL-ee-us)

Elaeagnacea (Oleaster Family)

Deciduous tree

HEIGHT:   20 to 30 feet
SPREAD:   15 to 20 feet
FINAL SPACING: 15 to 20 feet

NATURAL HABITAT AND PREFERRED SITE:   Native to southern Europe and west and central Asia. Adapts well to any well-drained soil from sand to heavy clays and form acid to alkaline conditions. Russian olive can stand fairly high levels of soil alkalinity and can grow at relatively high altitudes.

IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION:  Russian olive is a distinctive small tree with silver or gray leaves. It can be thorny or thornless branches. If the lower branches are allowed to remain, the tree develops into a dense, shrubby form.

FLOWERS AND FRUIT: Flowers are small, yellow or silvery flowers in the summer followed by small droops which mature from August to October. Flowers are very fragrant. Early summer flower around June scattered on the branches in clusters. Flowers are perfect, fruits that mature in August through October are approximately 3/8 to ½ inch long and oval in shape. Fruit is silvery gray becoming yellow to tan with maturity. The seed is hard, oval and has a ridge.

BARK:     Young stems are covered with silvery scales, stems and bark become reddish brown and lose the scales eventually becoming rough and vertically stripped and shallowly furrowed. Branches may or may not have thorns depending on the rate of the growth and the seed source. Spines can be as long as 2 inches and quite thick.

FOLIAGE:  Leaves are simple, alternate, bright green to silver with brown dots on the lower surface, little fall color.

CULTURE:  Russian olive is easy to grow but relatively short lived. It will do well in most well drained soils, is drought tolerant, has few pest problems and low fertilizer requirements. It does respond to healthy soils, fertilizer and watering during drought periods.

PROBLEMS: Too much water can cause several root fungal diseases. Root diseases resulting from environmental problems can be countered with the Sick Tree Treatment.

PROPAGATION:  From seeds, cutting or grafting. Fruit should be gathered in the fall when it first begins to separate from the tree. For best results stratify the seed for 90 days at 41 degrees to break the dormancy.

INSIGHT:  There are some so-called improved cultivars such as ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Red King’ that have red fruit.

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