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Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive — What’s Common in These Two Invading Plants?

Autumn olive Vs Russian olive is going to be a comparison between two such species that are totally different from others.

What we commonly see are the fancy reviews on the most fire plants out there in the world. Here on this site, we try to keep you updated with the most exotic ornamental plants that can fluently put life into your landscape.

But there are other plants in the world too.

Quite a few of them are known for their harsh nature, killing the ecosystem, and for their use in making delicious dishes.

Autumn olive and Russian olive are different species of the same genus named Elaeagnus. Both are exceptionally competent because of their ability to thrive even in poor environmental conditions.

That’s why they stand out from other plants — primarily known for their exotic delicacy — and are popular because of their invasive property.

Today we’ll see what is common between these two aggressors. And how they are slightly distinct from one another.

So, before going into Autumn olive Vs Russian olive, I am first going to clarify some essential terms.

What are Invasive Plants?

Invasive plants are non-native species of plants. They usually get out of control in the areas where they multiply wildly.

They compete with the native species (defeating them most of the time) and torment the ecosystem.

Autumn olive and Russian olive originate from the family Elaeagnaceae, having 70-80 species worldwide.

They have the unique property of fixing nitrogen in the soil.

They do relatively well even in poor soil conditions. Thus, they can deprive other native species of nutrients leading to their extinction.

That ultimately affects human health as it directly depends upon the ecosystem.

On the one hand, there are the native plants that effortlessly thrive, dominating the land. These rapidly growing native species are called the “Aggressive Species.” While on the other hand, the invasive plants tend to attack the others’ men land and dominate them.

Well, how do these plants get to these areas? The answer is quite simple. Naturally, there are only ways like dispersal through birds, insects, or even humans.

But they can also be made to go rough intentionally. As these types of plants are skilled in vanishing the native plants and destroying the biodiversity, they eventually turn the ecosystem bane.

Autumn olive

Autumn Olive Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive 2
Autumn Olive via Pixabay

Autumn olive is scientifically known as Elaeagnus umbettata.

It is common in North Carolina as an Invasive species. It is a pretty tough and resilient shrub or a small tree.

With its common names as Japanese silverberry and spreading oleaster, it is native to regions of Southeast Asia and arrays from the Himalayas to Japan.

Being at the top tier, the Autumn olive invades many zones of the US and Europe. It can swiftly take over the areas, terrorizing other species of plants by meddling into the natural resources.

Autumn olive is a deciduous plant that can rapidly outrun other greeneries. Therefore, you should not root your beautiful plants near these species.

Russian Olive

Russian Olive Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive 2
Russian Olive via wikimedia

Another parallel invasive species originating from the same genus is Elaeagnus angustifolia. It is commonly known as Russian olive.

Russian olive is indigenous to the central regions of Europe and Asia, thriving from Iran to southern Russia. Also, to places like Kyrgyzstan, India, and Pakistan.

These olives are known as weedy invaders in some parts of the United States. Yet, they are not popular invasive plants in New England.

Both Autumn olive and Russian olive are pretty similar regarding potency. However, they have a few differences in looks and existence.

So, without further ado let’s get straight into our topic; Autumn olive Vs Russian olive.

Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive

We always want to frame the gorgeous green embellishments in our homes and quickly buy a beauty if we see it best fits our canvas. We are humans, right? It’s in our nature.

But would you root such plants as can destroy the ecosystem and can farm out other species near them?

Well… if not, then I would say for your disclosure, Autumn olives and Russian olives are planted for their yummy fruits and their beautiful yellow flowers as ornamental plants.

Coming from the same Oleaster family and genus, both the Autumn olive and the Russian olive are equivalent in nature, but due to the difference in descending species both have slight differences.

Autumn Olive — Features

Autumn Olive Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive 3
Autumn Olive via kentcac

It first came to the US as an ornamental shrub. Due to its tolerant property, it was usually planted along the highways.

Plants like these were also used to restore barren lands.

Autumn olive is characterized by having spines/prickles, cloudy yellow flowers with an amazing scent, and lively red berries.

Let’s take a look at the plant’s features.


It is a bushy shrub that can attain a maximum height of 20 feet. Hence, in addition to making other plants deprived of soil nutrients, it also implies “shadiness” by depriving them of light.


Some Autumn olives are perennial/evergreen plants having relatively simple, oval-shaped green leaves.

There is not much unique in them except having silvery scales. In some, the scales are present on both sides of the leaves but when they get mature only the lower surface remains silver. Sometimes they also display brown scales on the lower side.

Autumn Olive Leaf Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive
Autumn Olive Leaf via Wikimedia


Packed with tiny sweet-scented flowers in clusters, Autumn olive exhibits a great combo. These white, creamy-colored flowers look lovely with the deep green foliage.

Autumn Olive Flower Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive
Autumn Olive Flower via Wikimedia

The terms like “invading plant” and “noxious weed” sound dangerous but what if I tell you that these very species have provided a great use in medicine.

From simple use as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial medicine, the essential chemical constituents present in these plants are used as a treatment for the heart (cardiotonic from flowers) and lung diseases (oil from the seeds).


The clusters of these gorgeous little flowers are followed by the deep red provision. You have already witnessed the vibrant red berries of Autumn olives. So let talk about their uses.

The fruits of Autumn olives are loved by birds and are also edible for human beings. We use these bloodshot berries for making juices and jams.

The olives are available during late summer or fall so that you can elevate the taste of your baked goods by fusing them with their sweet pulp.

Apart from their use in knocking up some rations the fruit contains a good amount of lycopene. The same thing is also present in tomatoes and has many pharmacological uses including health benefits.

With all that said, this plant is an outstanding competitor. Therefore, do not root this plant near your garden areas. If you find some weeds growing, just pull them out and make sure you also take the roots out.

You can also use some herbicides to take these kinds of species down.

You can also watch this tutorial to take care of these specific types.

Russian Olive — Features

Coming toward the cousin of Autumn olive, the Russian olive also originates from the same family and genus.

As aforementioned, its scientific name is Elaeagnus angustifolia. Unlike Autumn olive the native regions of Russian olive are more on the central and western side of the continent.

If we talk about looks, Russian olive is also characterized by having thorns (occasionally) and scales on stems, the flowers have the same morphology but are slightly more yellowish than flowers of Autumn olive.

The berries are also of a greenish-yellow color in contrast to red-colored autumn olives.

Russian Olive Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive 3
Russian olive via Freeimages.

Now, let’s go toward the features.


Russian olive is found in the form of small trees but you will mostly see them as deciduous shrubs. However, they can achieve a height of 10 to 25 feet.

The maximum height of Russian olives usually remains less than autumn olives, reaching a maximum of 10 m.


Leaves of Russian olive are one of its distinctive features. They are pretty narrow in shape as compared to those of Autumn olive.

They appear quite elegant showing an excellent contrast with limy green berries. Leaves in this species are also covered with silvery scales on each side.

Fun fact: At first, the stems in Russian olives are also covered with a silver hue but they turn brown when they get mature.


The flowers in Russian olive express uniqueness with the color they present.

Russian Olive Flower Autumn Olive Vs Russian Olive 3
Russian Olive Flower via Wikimedia

You can see in the above picture that the flowers show a distinct mustard yellow color. Also, unlike Autumn olives in which the flowers lay in the form of big clusters, in Russian olives, there are 2 to 3 flowers per leaf axis.

These flowers, like Autumn olive’s, are aromatic and retain the family’s legacy. They annually appear in mid-summer from May to June.


Coming to the olives themselves. These green pods are also covered with some silvery scales.

In Iran, people dry up Russian olives to make a powder which they use to treat fever, jaundice, asthma, and arthritis. Yes, just like Autumn olives, these berries were also traditionally used for medicinal purposes.

This study also shows the anti-oxidant and probiotic properties of Russian olives.

Although Elaeagnus umbettata and E. angustifolia are toxic to nearby plant species, their fruits are sweet and edible.


I’ll conclude this talk with some words of advice.

If you are an owner of a beautiful lawn or you are planting some exotic and gorgeous trees in your landscape, you should stay away from these olives.

Autumn olives and Russian olives are not the types of species that you can grow in gardens.

But the clash, Autumn olive Vs Russian olive also brought forth many traditional benefits of these plants.

With all that said, let us know in the comments what are your thoughts on these striking invaders.

Also, make sure you share this info with your friends and family.

Regards, Mahad H.