Unfortunately, as with many ornamentals, the shrub has escaped into the wild and is now considered a weed in many locations. Although a weed can be defined as any plant growing where it’s not wanted, Russian olive actually can outcompete native vegetation, interfere with natural plant succession and nutrient cycling, and tax water reserves. Because Russian olive is capable of fixing nitrogen in its roots, it can grow on bare, mineral substrates and dominate riparian vegetation where overstory cottonwoods have died. Russian olive provides edible fruits for birds, but avian species richness is actually higher in riparian areas dominated by native vegetation.
For these reasons, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department contracted the Conservation Research Center to survey 44 miles of the Green River to determine the levels of infestation of Russian olive and tamarisk (also known as salt cedar – another invasive species). The Conservation Research Center will provide management recommendations for control of Russian olive and tamarisk and identify priority areas for treatment.
If you have Russian olive on your property, our staff would be happy to offer management recommendations and replacement alternatives.