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How to Remove Russian Olive Trees

By James Young ; Updated September 21, 2017
This vigorous ornamental quickly escaped to the wild.

First imported to the U.S. in the 1830s, this vigorous legume from Eastern Europe helped control erosion and reclaim wastelands created by large-scale mining. The Russian olive's bushy thicket growth made the plant a common choice for hedges as well. Quickly escaping to the wild, Russian olive crowded out native plants and soon earned an official classification as an invasive weed. Regrowth of cut trees and new sprouts from long-lived seeds make complete elimination of Russian olive a long-term project.

Thicket Removal

Spray small Russian olive plants with glyphosphate herbicide in early summer after leaves fully emerge. Use the pump sprayer to coat both leaf surfaces.

Cut taller Russian olive saplings back to the ground with the chainsaw or limb loppers. Spray the freshly cut surface of the stump with glyphosphate herbicide.

Cut Russian olive hedges or thickets to the ground after the herbicide treatment kills the top growth--seven to 10 days after application. Use caution when handling the cut bushes and saplings since the plant bears needle-like thorns.

Mow the infested area frequently during the growing season. Don't allow leafy regrowth from stumps or roots to nourish the plants.

Remove seedling plants by hand. Seedlings emerge in spring--leaves of Russian olive resemble the long slender leaves of willow. Pull the plants when the ground is moist to remove roots and prevent regrowth.

Girdle large Russian olive trees in the fall by cutting away a 2-inch band of bark completely around the base of the tree. Cut the girdle with a hatchet or chainsaw, but leave the sapwood intact.

Spray the freshly cut girdle with glyphosphate herbicide. Cut the Russian olive down the next spring and spray or clip away any shoots that sprout from the stump or roots.


Things You Will Need

  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Glyphosphate herbicide
  • Manual pump sprayer
  • Hatchet
  • Chainsaw
  • Limb lopper
  • Lawn mower


  • Where Russian olives mature and produce crops of fruit, seeds disperse through bird droppings as well as by gravity. Seeds remain viable in the soil for three or more years. Without vigilant treatment, a stand of Russian olive could quickly return to a cleared area.
  • If mowing the area is practical, herbicide treatments may not be necessary. The Russian olive sprouts vigorously from stumps and buried roots, and sprouts allowed to grow quickly become too thick for mowers to cut. Plan for weekly or bi-weekly cutting if herbicide isn't a welcome answer.


  • Wear gloves and safety goggles when clearing or hauling away Russian olive bushes and branches.

About the Author


James Young began writing in 1969 as a military journalist combat correspondent in Vietnam. Young's articles have been published in "Tai Chi Magazine," "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," Sonar 4 ezine, "Stars & Stripes" and "Fine Woodworking." He has worked as a foundryman, woodturner, electronics technician, herb farmer and woodcarver. Young graduated from North Seattle Community College with an associate degree in applied science and electronic technology.