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Where is Russian Olive invasive or native?

Invasive Russian Olive in Montana

Russian olive, or Elaeagnus angustifolia, is native to Europe. On other continents, it is reported as an invasive species since it crowds native vegetation out.

Here are a few maps that show the distribution of Russian olive across the planet. Also included is how to report sightings of this invasive plant.

Invasive Russian olive & native range

Native to – Asia (Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan)

Invasive in – Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, United States

Where is Russian olive native to?

Russian Olive is native to Central Asia and Eastern Europe. It predominantly spreads along riverbeds. Here is a map that shows where it grows naturally in the wild. The green area marks the native growing area of Russian olive.

In all other regions, Russian olive has the potential of being extremely invasive. Within two or three decades, it can transform local ecosystems and wipe other native plants out.

Map of the world showing the native range of Russian olive, Elaeagnus angustifolia, over central Asia and Western Europe

Where has Russian olive spread so far?

In the United States

This map shows sightings of Russian olive in the United States. Every county where the plant has been reported is marked in green. It’s updated automatically thanks to the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System, hosted by the University of Georgia.

  • If you notice Russian Olive in your area, you can report it to them here.

In Canada

Map showing occurences of Russian Olive Elaeagnus angustifolia in Canada.All southernmost provinces have report sightings of Russian olive.

If you notice one as you walk around, report it to Canadian wildlife agencies here.

Canada also set up a good program together with horticulture stores and professional landscapers. It’s called “Plantwise“. Together, they wrote up a list of excellent shrubs that you can plant in your garden in replacement of Russian olive:

  • Scouler’s Willow (Salix scouleriana)
  • Weeping pear (Pyrus salicifolia)
  • Wolf-willow (Elaeagnus commutata)
  • Pacific Crabapple (Malus fusca)
  • Blue Elderberry (Sambucus cerulea)
  • Sandbar willow (Salix exigua)
  • Silver buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea)

Which US states regulate Russian Olive?

Currently, only a few states have laws that prohibit or restrict planting and sale of Russian Olive. Others are currently evaluating the risk that this plant poses. This translates into having the plant on a “watch list” of potentially invasive species.

Here is a map, also updated daily, that shows the current legal status of Russian olive in the United States.

Read also: other trees you wouldn’t think are invasive in the United States:

Sources (maps)

GSID, as of August 19th, 2020

Smart tip about reporting Russian olive presence

With smartphones, it becomes increasingly easy to report Russian olive when you sight it. The EDDMapS phone app gathers GPS location data and forwards it to the agency that can best help control the weed.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Montana cattle by Matt Lavin under © CC BY-SA 2.0
World Map base by Smurfy under © CC BY-SA 3.0
Canada map base by Canadensys Université de Montréal Biodiversity Centre under Public Domain
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  • Cookie wrote on 26 April 2022 at 21 h 23 min

    Lots of Russian Olive trees in Montrose Colorado. I had heard that they were outlawed in Colorado and you can’t even buy them here. They are water hogs!

    • Gaspard wrote on 28 April 2022 at 3 h 11 min

      Hi Cookie! Yes, Russian olive is a “List B” species in Colorado, meaning the state has plans and programs to stop it from spreading. That’s why purchasing and transporting it is illegal. However, it isn’t (yet) a “List A” species: those are actively eradicated, pulled out and destroyed wherever they’re found.