Russian Olive

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:


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)
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Wondering if anybody has info on the outdoor application or rot resistance of this wood. I have a feeling, based on the small amount of sapwood (which is just a theory of mine) , that it is good but haven’t put it to the test yet.


I cut one down 9 years ago and it’s been sitting out in the treeline since then and I’m now using it for firewood and my woodworking and the edges are starting to rot but the center is still very strong and it’s a very flexible wood that cuts hard and looks amazing after running it through the planer. Hope that helps answer your question

Steve Revland (

I got this wood from my Russian friend Evgeny on Etsy. The trees grow a bit larger there and can get rounds up to 20” in diameter. I quarter them and make tables like this.


Hello, I used to have this wood – it has an unpleasant smell.


Agreed! Smells turdy when worked with powertools!

Andreas Goessl

Last night I was turning and sanding a natural edge bowl from this wood, leading to a pronounced and long-lasting allergic reaction in the airways (runny nose, asthma, ..). If you tend to have respiratory allergies, beware and use dust protection when working with this wood.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andreas Goessl

I am presently making a box from Russian olive. It has a very unpleasant odor. I was around the wood many years ago and remembered that it smelled bad. The stock I have doesn’t match the data on the wood. My stock is quite soft and light weight.
Not my favorite wood but I may change my mind after the project is finished.


Funny, just made an archery bow from Autumn Olive, close relative, and it had a very pleasant smell.

M Fights

This is a project I’ve been working on. The body is similar to a Fender* Acoustasonic made from Russian Olive with a band of Black Walnut as center binding and finished with one coat of wipe on poly. As others have commented the wood does have a very strong odor when working it either green or dry(4 months from felling, slabbed to roughly 2x8x24″ and dried for 6 months, milled to final size(1-3/4x6x24″) and glued planks dried for 3 months) its a very herby/oily (like a potent salad dressing) smell that lingers even after washing. The tree, about 30ft tall,… Read more »

M Fights

Thanks, Eric.


a few “corrections”: 1. not quite right, to characterize, as “very small tree”, as the tree quite regularly grows to 40′ and beyond, with trunk diameters up to 4’dia.. 2. the wood DOES have a “distinctive/nasty” odour, in machining (for me? burning tires/popcorn)….beyond these “corrections”: colour will darken considerably, with uv exposure, from a medium yellow-brown, to a darker, “gravy”-colour…sapwood, is generally narrow (1-3 rings), usually cream- colour, but some have a bright lemon-yellow sapwood…works fairly well, but it is coarse textured, semi-ring-porous wood, so sanding/finishing can be a challenge….finishes/glues with no problems….being naturally a “semi-desert” species, the wood is… Read more »

Mark Harner

Russian olive does have a very strong and distinctive fragrance when sawn or sanded.

Mark Harner

Dried as rounds about six months. I recently shaped into slabs.

Mark Burnham

Dried. As has been said, quite unpleasant. Definitely a burning smell. I checked my bandsaw / motor to make sure I didn’t have sparks/smoldering


Beautiful wood, but until it is thoroughly dried, while working with it, it smells awful – my brother was making 10 inch boxes out of it and said “smells like cat piss”. I thought the same. Once it is dried and sealed, I love it.

Kim Curtis

I live on the Wind River Indian Reservation, in Wyoming, where Russian Olive is considered an invasive and unwanted species.
There is tons of it, here and I will be harvesting a lot of it for mallet heads and for knife scales, too!
Many of the local ranchers have pulled the root bases from the banks of irrigation ditches and streams and there is an abundance of dried root balls to chose my wood from!
I have found that when dried, it is very hard and not easy to carve but, when green, it is very easy to carve!


This is russian olive. Finished with a combination mixture of clear lacquer, boiled linseed oil, and denatured alcohol. The wood is not easy to turn but looks great if you stick with it. Also, it tends to split easily while drying.

Edward Ocampo-Gooding

Did you mean to attach a picture?


I am refinishing a 3 drawer, 4 cupboard piece of furniture that I believe is olive wood. The grain is outstanding. Anyone know the best way to seal it? Oil? Stain? I want to leave it as natural as possible. Also, the top had some water damage that was ‘ lifting’ the very thin layer on the top. It peeled off like bark ( but clearly wasn’t) exposing 4 panels glued together. 2 look like the olive wood and 2 are green. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


hhmm…from what you are describing, I doubt that the cupboard is olive, or Russian olive…pictures would help…..


Freshly milled or sanded, the main (or only…) wood Ive come across that has green heartwood is poplar. And if it’s cabinets, I’d guess it to be a yellow poplar. I believe it’s commonly harvested in the northwest if you are in the US.


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.

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… Read more »

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.