Russian Olive trees: a good idea gone rogue

Non-native Russian olive trees were brought into Franklin County along with the rest of the west in the 1940s and 50s. Today they have spread, especially along waterways, like the Bear River. 

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During the New Deal days, the federal government introduced the Russian Olive trees to the west, seeing it a great windbreak, a source of shade and a way to control soil erosion. In Franklin County, they were dispersed through the Franklin County Extension office by Dan Robertson during the 40s and 50s. In 1954, the Idaho Fish and Game department saw the tree as prime cover and food source for game birds. The trees were prized because they would survive almost anything.

They have. But in the process, these Asian natives have also pushed out plants native to Idaho, which has prompted its place on the list of the state's invasive pests.

Seedlings easily sprout from the many olive-like seed pods the trees produce. Waterways and birds freely disperse the seeds and they can be found around the county, and much of the west today.

Although some people enjoy the easily grown, tough, spiny and fragrant trees, others actively try to remove them. 

That, however, is easier said than done, said Utah State University Extension Agent, Dennis Worwood. 

The tree has no native threats and has an aggressive survival instinct. Within 30 minutes of being cut down, the stump needs to be sprayed with an herbicide, say extension agents.

According to the Utah State University Extension office, the most effective way to remove them is to cut them down and spray the raw stump with an herbicide immediately. 

If left untreated, trimming or cutting down these trees simply seems to invigorate them, say those who have tried to do so. 

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