It grows naturally from the Mediterranean to Central Asia and China. It is 5-7 m tall and the crown is 3-6 m wide. It is a round shaped tree. Its shoots are brittle and densely thorny. Summer green leaves are 4-8 cm long, oval-lanceolate, dull dark green on the upper side and silvery white on the lower side. June flowers are bell-shaped, 1 cm wide, yellow inside, silvery outside and fragrant. Flower clusters consist of 1-3 flowers. Fruits are silvery at first, then dark orange, olive-sized and shaped. The inside of the fruit is floury and sweet, but some people like them, and grafted ones are more desirable. For this reason, Elaeagnus angustifolia is called Bird’s Needle. It grows mostly in continental climates; sunny, hot and dry places (slopes); shallow-dry, very poor soils. It tolerates lime and saline soils, urban climates, and can even grow in soils wet with sea water.
With its gray/silvery leaves and drooping silhouette, it looks plastic and very decorative. It is very successful in achieving contrasts in compositions in parks and gardens, as well as in rural areas. It is used in clusters, groups or solitary to create green or windbreaks, to stop sand dunes and to control erosion (soil retention). It is also a very good bee-feeding tree.
Elaeagnus angustifolia is commonly known as the Russian olive or oleaster. The local or common names for plants can vary based on region and cultural context. In some areas, it may be referred to simply as “oleaster,” while in others, the term “Russian olive” might be more commonly used. Always check with local botanical references, nurseries, or gardening experts in your specific region for the most commonly used and recognized local names for plants.
What are the benefits of Elaeagnus?
Elaeagnus, including species like Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian olive) and Elaeagnus ebbingei, can offer several benefits in different contexts. However, it’s important to note that the benefits can vary depending on the specific species and how they are used. Here are some potential benefits of Elaeagnus:
- Erosion Control: Elaeagnus angustifolia is often used for erosion control in areas with poor or disturbed soils. Its deep root system helps stabilize soil, preventing erosion.
- Tolerance to Harsh Conditions: Elaeagnus species are known for their tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions, including drought and poor soil. This makes them suitable for landscaping in challenging climates.
- Nitrogen Fixation: Some Elaeagnus species, including Elaeagnus angustifolia, have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil. This can contribute to soil fertility by enhancing nitrogen levels, which is beneficial for other nearby plants.
- Ornamental Value: Elaeagnus plants are appreciated for their ornamental qualities. They often have attractive silver-green foliage, fragrant flowers, and sometimes colorful berries. Elaeagnus ebbingei, for example, is grown for its glossy, silver-green leaves and fragrant flowers.
- Wildlife Habitat: The flowers and fruit of Elaeagnus can attract pollinators and wildlife, providing habitat and food sources for birds and insects.
- Adaptability: Elaeagnus species are adaptable to various soil types and can tolerate a range of environmental conditions, making them suitable for diverse landscaping situations.
Despite these potential benefits, it’s crucial to be aware that some Elaeagnus species, particularly Elaeagnus angustifolia, are considered invasive in certain regions. Invasive plants can outcompete native vegetation and negatively impact local ecosystems. Therefore, it’s important to use Elaeagnus species responsibly, especially in areas where they are not native.
Before planting Elaeagnus or any other landscaping plant, it’s advisable to check with local authorities, extension services, or environmental organizations to ensure that the chosen species is appropriate for the region and won’t pose a threat to the local ecosystem.