Noxious Weed of the Month: Russian olive


Russian olive.

By Ethan Proud | PREVIEW Columnist

Russian olives are a perennial shrub or tree which can grow to a height of 40 feet tall. It was initially introduced as an ornamental planting and for windbreaks. 

Russian olive is a major problem along riparian corridors, where it out-competes native trees and consumes water at a higher rate — which is a serious concern in our drought-stricken state. It has grayish-green leaves paired with reddish-brown thorns. It has small yellow flowers that produce olives. Russian olive may be used as forage for wildlife or nesting for birds, but to a lesser degree than native vegetation. Seeds survive ingestion by animals, which can be a vector for spread.

This plant is common in Archuleta County on private property and may escape along our river corridors. Small plants can be treated with foliar herbicides or manually removed and monitored for suckering from the root system. Larger trees should be treated via a cut-stump method.

Russian olive should not be removed before proper identification as it has a native look-alike, the silvery buffaloberry plant. Buffaloberry has red fruits and opposite thorns, while the thorns of Russian olive are arranged in an alternating pattern.

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