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Title:Russian Olive - Friend or Foe?

Russian Olive is now commonplace across many places in the U.S., and whether that’s good or bad is a matter of strong opinion. If it sprouts in your yardscape, you have some decisions to make, and if you want to control it, DirtFarmerJay will show you how! Buy your DFJ T-Shirt, Cap, or Coffee Mug at https.//www.dirtfarmerjay.com/shop Russian Olive, botanical name Elaeagnus Angustifolia has rapidly adapted in the wild after initially being introduced as an ornamental, and then later by government entities in conservation efforts. It has been used for snow breaks, windbreaks, soil stabilization, and erosion control, shade, pollen, and wildlife habitat. Other common names for this tree/shrub are wild olive, silver berry, and oleaster. Like many well-intended actions or programs, there are unintended and unforeseen consequences. It is now classified as a noxious weed in Colorado and New Mexico, it’s most invasive in riparian (along rivers, creeks, and waterways) areas. Many other states, counties, and various jurisdictions have warnings about plantings of Russian Olive. Russian Olive readily chokes out native tree species such as willows, box elders, and cottonwood. A mature tree can consume up to 75 gallons (285 liters) per tree! And, it’s lower growth habit of commonly branching right at soil level can dam up or redirect water flow. Not good. While value and beauty tend to be highly subjective, Russian Olive takes a lot of tending to have it behave well in a yardscape. It is usually heavily armed with 1” to 2” (2.5 to 5 cm) thorns, and the lower 6 to 7’ (2 meters) of the tree is a dense tangle of (often dead) branches. It can be pruned to a single trunk, and depending on conditions, can grow to between 16’ and 40’ (5 to 12 meters) tall, with most being in the 30’ (9 m) range. If left untended, it will create plentiful deadfall, as well as prolific small branching throughout much of the canopy. It will tend to show up in other places in your yardscape via seed dispersal by wildlife, particularly birds. The seed passes through many birds’ digestive tracts unscathed. Since birds sit in existing trees and shrubs, many Russian Olive seedlings will grow at the base of existing plantings, where the droppings are deposited. Saplings can grow with limited light and can be easily overlooked while they blend in with the surrounding foliage. Russian Olive will grow significantly after wounding. Cutting off a sapling or mature tree at the soil line will only create a spray of new stems in the months to come. We have observed stands of trees that were burned during wildfires with only blackened skeletal remains with prolific growth coming from the bases. They are very persistent! The most effective way to control them is to use an approved herbicide, undiluted, applied generously on the open stump, literally minutes after the cut has been made. The root system will imbibe the herbicide into the roots (which are primarily lateral, with almost all roots being in the first 3’ (1 m) of the soil. DirtFarmerJay uses glyphosate, which disrupts the proteins needed by the root to produce new tissue. The herbicide is systemic, meaning that takes time to work through the “system” of the tree/roots. In the meantime, for small saplings, no new top growth should appear. Larger trees may take repeated applications, but don’t give up! If you want to really get a lot of detail about Russian Olives, here is an extensive technical document for your reading pleasure: www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/elaang/all… Additionally, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) has a resource center on invasive plant species and lists information on Russian Olive here: www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/terrestrial/plants/rus… While it’s your decision of you want to let Russian Olive grow in your yard or not, you now know how to kill saplings should you wish to. You don’t need an arborist or professional landscaper to do this; you can JUST DO IT YOURSELF! Buy your DFJ T-Shirt, Cap, or Coffee Mug at https.//www.dirtfarmerjay.com/shop Follow us on Social Media to know when we’re building projects or releasing new episodes! Instagram: www.instagram.com/dirtfarmerj Facebook: www.facebook.com/dirtfarmerjay


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