Russian olive is a small tree with low branches and a trunk that often leans; easily recognized by its silvery leaves.
Leaves are simple, alternate, narrow, 2–3½ inches long, lacking teeth, tip somewhat pointed; upper surface dull gray-green, sometimes with silvery scales; lower surface covered with silvery white scales.
Bark is thin, dark gray to brown, with shallow grooves, ridges flat, shedding in long strips.
Twigs are slender, reddish, coated with gray, scaly hairs, later becoming smooth; twigs often with short spines.
Flowers May–July, scattered on the branches in leaf axils, in clusters of 1–3 flowers; flowers small, up to ¼ inch long, silvery yellow, fragrant, petals absent.
Fruit August–October, oval, about ½ inch long, yellow to tan but densely covered with silvery scales; flesh yellow, waxy, mealy, sweet, with a single stony pit.