Cj Verde wrote:Seeds available here with germination tips.
Rebecca Norman wrote:I've propagated it many times exactly like we propagate willows here, ie by cuttings in late winter/early spring.
We just cut a sturdy stick off the parent plant, optionally soak the bottom end in water for a few days, and then plant it at least a foot and half down into the soil, with any amount sticking up. With willows, since there's heavy animal pressure, we plant them taller, but Russian olive doesn't get browsed or girdled so we sometimes plant it with just a foot or two above ground. Water the cutting well at first and regularly the first summer. We always cut and plant tree cuttings while the trees are dormant in late winter, though I am told that planting in autumn works just as well. I've about 90% success with this method with Russian olive, higher than for willow and in most years than poplar.
One of the complaints by the wildlife experts that was pushing russian olive elimination is that while it benefits some species it is eliminating others. And though I can't speak on effects on animal species I can tell you from personal experience it pushes plants out reducing species. I talked to a friend from Nebraska that said it will even push the cedar trees out of river bottoms.
For firewood it burns good and hot, moderate amount of ash and isn't bad about creosote. The bark is extremely hard on chain saw chains making cutting a bit of a pain. Best guess is that it collects a lot of dirt in its layers. Splits decently if good wood and dry. Miserable stuff to harvest for firewood because nothing is even mildly straight and because of all the thorns. Best answer to help with harvest that I am aware of is goats followed by some cribbing horses. Goats wipe out the under story and the horses get rid of the rest up to more than head high. Normally the branch thicket around the base of the tree means cutting to even clear a place to work to fell the tree. Giant Mechanical shears or cutting blades help here so humans don't have to get close to cut them down. The thorns are rough to work around.
For construction wood the answer is unlikely. The trees tend to spiral crack with changing moisture levels and getting straight pieces even 4 to 6 feet long for wood working is difficult. The other problem is that if the trunk is over about 8 inches in diameter the odds are the heart wood will be rotten. Lots of years spent looking for cabinet size pieces taught me that. For every about 15 or 20 trees cut down with large trunk size I find one tree with good heart wood in the big part of the trunk. Now it might make artificial timber. The process that uses scrub wood and crushes it and adds glue to make an engineered wood might work with these.(I have wondered about this one for 25 years since I saw the original article on it.) It is a beautiful wood working wood especially quarter sawed. Really bad for fine detail work because places in the grain tend to be really fragile. For good durability avoid sharp square profiles along with fragile profiles and round all edges over.
As for when it was introduced in the US I can't speak for other areas but I know roughly when it came into this area. In post dust bowl years it was one of the wind break trees pushed by the government. It was cheap, survived well and was easy to plant. Normal location to plant was fence rows for wind break. So late 1930's or early 40's was when it first came to this area. I have talked to a few old farmers who remember when their families planted the original rows in this area. So in basically 80 years it has gone from nonexistent to the dominate tree in this area. In my 50 year lifetime I have watched the river bottoms change from mostly dark green trees with an occasional russian olive mixed in to a sea of the pale green russian olive and just a few dark green trees showing. And it is pushing up the mountains along the streams. Damage to habitat is one of the concerns as it moves higher on the mountains. It may also be hurting water quality.(The guy arguing this one didn't have real proof but was making a bit of sense.) He was talking about reduced grass growth along streams because the trees were choking it out. And that grass acts as a fine bio filter so lack of it was reducing water quality at certain times of the year. This last one I have heard from only a couple of people and there was not solid science to back it. But it should be in the discussion till proven or dis-proven.
Don't get me wrong I see numerous advantage to russian olives. Easy spreading in an area where trees are hard to get started. The bee keepers love them because of the long bloom time and huge pollen loads.(they do try to track frames from it though and leave those for the bees because it does not make great honey apparently.) Migrating birds love them for food in the fall. The fruit is eaten and the seeds spit out. Huge food source for some species. Other species are hurt by them. Wild turkey for example had other native foods they ate that the russian olive push out. And turkeys don't see long term benefit from the berries partly because where they are in the trees but mostly because migrating birds wipe it out not leaving some of the longer lasting food sources they originally used. So turkeys are more hurt than helped by them according to the biologists presenting at the meetings for removal. They provide good shelter for small wild life. And this just lists a few. But having grown up around them I also see the disadvantages and understand why the state is going after them. Water loss, loss of species etc. Having changed hundreds of russian olive flat tires colors it even more against. Multiple hard to heal wounds colors it more too. Dry thorns are mostly safe only making a hole but green thorns contain a toxin that produces an allergic reaction in most people increasing pain and slowing healing.
As for using them in hugelkulture that is on my to do list to try. Since I have only been aware of it a bit over a year, I didn't make it last year. Hopefully health will cooperate and I will get around to trying it this year.
Personally I hate the amount of money that has gone into the cleanup for even our small drainage. I also hate the waste of piling trees and burning them as slash piles. But I understand the reasons too. If we are going to spend government money on this I would like to see a harvesting for bio fuels program of some sort created to use the wood and instead of wiping the russian olive out in an area simply put so much pressure on them via harvesting for fuel that they don't spread. There are many areas where growing these for fuel might be the best use of that land. If the contract cost could be used to cover the initial startup cost of the business could it hang on afterward without those contracts? Surely a fuel they are paying roughly $200 to $250 an acre to harvest a way can be found to make it viable for power generation. In the short term use the fact that it has more value to cover the start up.