Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

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Common Name(s): Russian Olive

Scientific Name: Elaeagnus angustifolia

Distribution: Native to eastern Europe and western and central Asia; naturalized throughout North America

Tree Size: 20-35 ft (6-10 m) tall, 1-1.5 ft (.3-.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 43 lbs/ft3 (685 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .55, .69

Janka Hardness: 1,240 lbf (5,530 N)*

*Estimated hardness based upon specific gravity

Modulus of Rupture: No data available

Elastic Modulus: No data available

Crushing Strength: No data available

Shrinkage:No data available

Color/Appearance: Color ranges from a light yellowish-brown to a darker golden brown, sometimes with a greenish hue. Sapwood a much lighter yellow-white.

Grain/Texture: Unlike true Olive (Olea genus), Russian Olive is very porous and of an uneven grain texture.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; 5-10 rows of medium to large earlywood pores, exclusively solitary latewood pores grading from medium to small; tyloses sometimes present; medium to wide rays visible without lens, spacing wide; parenchyma generally not visible with hand lens, or diffuse-in-aggregates (barely visible).

Rot Resistance: No data available.

Workability: No data available.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Russian Olive. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Russian Olive tends to be a very small tree, with a highly branching form that is not conducive to large or straight logs. Wood is limited to small-scale and hobbyist uses. Being a fairly common and fast-growing tree, prices should be moderate.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Knife scales, bowls, pens, and other small woodturning projects.

Comments: Originally brought to the United States in the late 1800s for windbreaks and erosion control (and as an ornamental tree). However, because of the tree’s rapid growth and adaptability to poor soil, it’s now considered an invasive species in many areas of the United States.

Russian Olive is not closely related to the wood that is commonly referred to as Olivewood (Olea europaea) and may be distinguished from true Olive by the endgrain. Olive is diffuse porous, while Russian Olive is ring-porous.

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)

Russian Olive (sanded)

Russian Olive (sealed)

Russian Olive (sealed)

Russian Olive (endgrain)

Russian Olive (endgrain)

Russian Olive (endgrain 10x)

Russian Olive (endgrain 10x)

  • russian olive

    my experiences with Russian olive is that it is rather easy to work with and finishes very nicely. I built a wood topped banjo with it and have loved the wood ever sense but it is a thorn bush and you will loose a lot of blood getting the wood and i lost a pickup tire to the 2inch thorns.

  • dan hamilton

    My fathers property in southern Illinois is over whelmed with Russian Olive trees as they were used in near by coal mining areas during reclamation of the mines after they closed.

    It does have thorns and it is easy to work. Most of the smaller ones, 6 inch and under trunk size, have a beautiful purple and white heart wood, especially in the smaller branches.

    I have often thought of making a semi hollow lamented body guitar out of this, but not sure about the tonal properties of the wood. I would also like to know more about if you could harden it with heat treating like maple can be, or almost any other techniques that might be able to make this plentiful wood useful in the musical industry or any other. It basically grows like weeds, and most everyone i know just wants it removed from their property.

  • Woodwierdo

    This wood is best suited to turned objects, in my experience, as the irregular wood and knots tend to make it hard to work with anything duller than a razor blade.Since I find that irregular woods seem to do well on the lathe, I use it for turnings, as it is very figured and I think it looks quite nice.