What is a Russian-olive?
Russian-olive is now classified as a noxious weed in Colorado.Despite its generally bad reputation, Russian-olive does have some redeeming qualities as a landscapeor windbreak plant: silvery leaves, fragrant flowers, drought tolerance, and the ability to grow in poor, infertile or salty soils.It can grow where site limitations preclude other trees. There are few Colorado landscape plants that can duplicate all these characteristics.
Alternatives to Russian-olive include some related trees and shrubs:
Autumn-olive is a shrub to small tree with silvery leaves. It has fragrant flowers and the edible fruits turn red when mature. Autumn-olive, like Russian-olive, can have spiny twigs, and is often spread by birds that eat the fruit.It is not widely available in Colorado.
Silverberry is a native in Canada, the US Midwest into South Dakota.It has very showy silver leaves, fragrant flowers, and fruits similar to those of Russian-olive.Silverberry is a shrub that suckers extensively, forming large colonies. It is not widely sold in Colorado, but has been planted in highway medians.
Seabuckthorn is an Asian shrub or small tree. It has silvery-green leaves and spiny twigs.Female trees bear small orange fruits only when male trees are nearby. Fruits are not favored by birds. Seabuckthorn tolerates poor, infertile or salty soils. It is not widely sold in Colorado.
Silver Buffaloberry, a western Colorado native, has silver leaves and fruits. It is a very cold-hardy and drought tolerant shrub or small tree. Twigs are thorny; orange yellow fruits on female plants are small and edible. It is sold in some Colorado nurseries and garden centers.
Russet Buffaloberry is also native to Colorado. This shrub has green leaves that are silver on the undersides. It is not as drought tolerant as silver buffaloberry and prefers partial shade.Twigs are spineless; fruit on female plants is bitter. It is sold in some Colorado nurseries and garden centers.
Salt tree is not related to Russian-olive. It is a spiny shrub with gray-green leaves and small attractive lavender flowers. It tolerates poor, infertile or salty soils, but is not widely sold in Colorado.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
- 7.229 Xeriscaping: trees and shrubs
- 7.423 Trees and Shrubs for mountain areas
- 7.421 Native trees for Colorado landscapes
For more information, see the following Planttalk Colorado™ script(s).