Removal of a New Russian Olive Tree

Overview

Spreading by suckers sprouting from wide-reaching roots as well as by scattered seed, Russian olives invade North American wild lands and crowd out native species. Even birds and animals struggle in Russian olive forests, since few other edible plants compete well against it. With only one brief crop of edible fruit to contribute, Russian olive thickets don't provide reliable wildlife forage. Adding a Russian olive ornamental to the home landscape only adds to this imported threat, since birds spread the seeds for miles. Removing young Russian olive trees shouldn't present serious problems, but be willing to dig.

Step 1

Remove first year trees easily by inserting a shovel blade beneath the root ball and levering the tree out of the planting hole. Roots begin their major growth cycle in the fall of the year, so catching a Russian olive early eliminates most chances of spreading through root sections left behind.

Step 2

Prune the tops of Russian olives which have grown long enough to develop strong roots. Avoid thorns and create a safe work around the tree, clipping off all branches and hauling them away. Leave enough trunk to serve as a stout handle -- six feet gives plenty of leverage.

Step 3

Locate large roots by digging a circular trench around the Russian olive about three feet from the trunk. Sever a root with limb loppers or a hatchet rather than beating it to pieces with the mattock.

Step 4

Test the tree by pushing and pulling on the trunk when all large roots appear to be cut free. Dig around the base of the Russian olive to weaken any remaining roots, and sever any deep-reaching tap roots.

Step 5

Drive the blade of the pick under the center of the tree and lever the Russian olive out of the hole. Don't fight the tree--if it doesn't immediately break loose check again for roots and cut them.

Step 6

Check the hole for the stumps of any large roots after pulling the tree out. If the roots don't pull loose, cut them as deep in the ground as possible. Level off the area and replant.

Step 7

Mow or trim the area regularly to cut back any surviving sprouts to the ground. Regular mowing effectively prevents re-establishment, but root suckers may return for two or three years.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use proper lifting techniques when pulling roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Limb loppers
  • Pruning shears
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Mattock
  • Pick
  • Hatchet
  • Shovel

References

  • Introduced Species Summary Project: Russian Olive
  • University of Maine Extension: Autumn Olive/Russian Olive
  • DCNR Invasive Exotic Plant Tutorial: Russian Olive and Autumn Olive

Who Can Help

  • National Resources Conservation Service: Russian Olive/Salt Cedar Special Initiative
Keywords: russian olive sprouts, russian olive removal, dig russian olive

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. He specializes in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in "Tai Chi Magazine," "Sonar 4 Ezine," "The Marked Tree," "Stars & Stripes," the "SkinWalker Files" and "Fine Woodworking."