Russian Olive Tree Removal

Manage woody encroachment - Improve grasslands

Russian Olive Photo: Josh Lefers/Audubon

Machinery removal of Russian Olive only sets the plant age time scale back; so the period following removal is the most imperative phase for long-term control of invasive trees like the Russian Olive. Effective control integrates removing top growth, suppressing regrowth, and filling the void with desirable, shade-producing vegetation. 

The following is a brief list of methods used to control re-sprouts.  

In areas where woody native plants are present and their continued existence is desired, or for large stands of Russian olive it may be necessary to cut and treat the stumps with a herbicide. 


Herbicide: (liquid, follow all label directions/precautions)

  • Does not eliminate seed 

Cut-stump treatment:  

  • Cuts should be made within 2 inches of the grounds surface 
  • Use a hatchet or chainsaw to make these cuts 
  • Followed by a herbicide application to the cut stems 
  • Girdling method 
  • Make shallow, overlapping cuts into the bark around the trunk base 
  • Lightly spray the entire cut surface with herbicide 
  • Several herbicides will kill Russian-olive, but repeat applications over a span of 1-2 years are needed for good control. 

Mowing Saplings: Russian-olive saplings are easily mowed. 

  • The stems are erect and most branching occurs above a typical mower height.
  • The stem material is easily cut and does not wind around mower blades.
  • Once the stems get much larger than 1 inch in diameter, mowing becomes impractical.  

Revegetation: After managing Russian olive infestations, other vegetation must be established to prevent re-invasion. 

  • Competitive grasses and planted cottonwood cuttings have proven to be effective at reducing the chances of re-invasion.  


For large stands of Russian olive that would essentially be monotypic, foliar applications of herbicides are effective. Late summer/early fall are optimum treatment times using this method. This is recommended for areas that have little to no desirable shrubs and trees.  


Why Remove Trees?  

Once considered optimal choices for shelter belts, non-native trees have long been proven to do more harm than good in grassland ecosystems. They tend to escape shelterbelts, invading pastures, CRP, and grasslands at an alarming rate. When woody plants encroach and take over a grassland, soil dynamics change, biodiversity decreases, and water flow, especially in nearby riparian systems, decreases. Woody encroachment is a problem in many grassland habitats throughout the U.S. and numerous studies have shown how restoration can be thwarted when woody plants are left unmanaged in grasslands. Often, one particularly invasive woody species will take over a grassland patch, dramatically reducing plant diversity and making it inhospitable for animals that rely on those grassland patches. 

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