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© Etienne Branquart
© Etienne Branquart
Elaeagnus angustifolia - Russian olive

Synonym: Elaeagnus hortensis
French name:  Olivier de bohême
Dutch name: Smalle olijfwilg
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Group: Vascular plants
Origin: Asia, Europe
Habitat: terrestrial
Introduction:  agri- and horticulture
ISEIA Score : 10
Naturalization in Belgium
First observation in the wild: 1939
Invasion stage: spread
Spatial distribution: isolated
Reproduction in the wild: yes
Dispersion potential: likely
Natural habitats: likely
More on invasiveness: Invasive populations of Russian olive in North America typically thrive in semi-arid riparian habitats with low flood frequency and intensity, but also in old fields, meadows and sparse woodlands. In Europe, it is found both in disturbed areas and in open semi-natural habitats, often in coastal areas (dunes, salt marshes, grasslands, etc.). The plant originates from cultivation: it is commonly used as an ornamental and is planted in gardens and public green areas (e.g. windbreak and erosion control). Plant fruits are readily eaten and disseminated by many species of birds. Seeds are hard and dormant at maturity and require a period of cool, moist stratification, or possibly scarification, for germination. Species dispersion and establishment in Belgium is poorly documented.
Distribution in Belgium
Established populations
absent from district
isolated populations (1-5 localities per district)
widespread (>5 localities per district)
Endangered areas
low risk
medium risk
high risk

Impacts on Species
Predation / Herbivory: low
Competition: high
Disease transmission: low
Genetic effects: low
Impacts on Ecosystems
Nutrient cycling: high
Physical alteration: likely
Natural successions: likely
Food web alteration: low
More on impacts: In North America, Russian olive invades preferentially beneath the canopy of native riparian trees or within dense herbaceous vegetation, where it forms self-replacing stands. As opposed to most weedy plants, it has life-history attributes typical of later-successional species; it is very competitive and can form monospecific populations with high stem densities that displace native vegetation and interfere with natural plant successions. Because it is capable of fixing nitrogen in its roots, it may contribute significant additional nitrogen to the ecosystems that it invades. However, in Belgium as in other West European countries, dense populations of Russian olive are rarely observed in the wild.
Data Source & References
Authors: Baus Erika, Branquart Etienne, Vanderhoeven Sonia, Van Landuyt Wouter, Van Rossum Fabienne, Verloove Filip
Published on:  16 March 2009
Last update:  21 December 2010
Botta-Dukát, Z. (2008)
Invasion of alien species to Hungarian (semi-)natural habitats.
Acta Botanica Hungarica 50(Suppl): 219–227.
Katz, G.L. & Shafroth, P.B. (2003)
Biology, ecology and management of Elaeagnus angustifolia L.(Russian olive) in western North America.
Wetlands 23(4): 763-777.
Krivanek, M. & Pysek, P. (2006)
Predicting invasions by woody species in a temperate zone: a test of three risk assessment schemes in Czech Republic.
Diversity and Distributions 12: 319-327.
Lesica, P. and Miles, S. (1999)
Russian olive invasion into cottonwood forests along a regulated river in north-central Montana.
Can. J. Bot. 77(8): 1077–1083.
Muzika, R.M. and Swearingen, J.M. (1997)
Russian Olive - Elaeagnus angustifolia L.
Plant Conservation Alliance, Alien Plant Working Group (PCA APWG) Weeds Gone Wild Factsheets.
Stoleson, S.H. & Finch, D.M. (2001)
Breeding Bird Use of and Nesting Success in Exotic Russian Olive in New Mexico.
The Wilson Bulletin 113(4):452-455.
Van Landuyt, W., Hoste, I., Vanhecke, L., Van den Bremt, P. Vercruysse, W. & De Beer, D. (2006)
Atlas van de Flora van Vlaanderen en het Brussels gewest.
Nationale Plantentuin en het Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek i.s.m. Flo.Wer vzw.
Verloove, F. (2010)
Elaeagnus angustifolia.
In: Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium [available online], National Botanic Garden of Belgium.
Zouhar, K. (2005)
Elaeagnus angustifolia.
In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).

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