Shrubs or small trees, 3-7(-10) m tall. Bark reddish brown; spines absent or sharp, 0.7-3 cm; young branches and both leaf surfaces silvery white, densely stellate-scaly, or adaxially grayish green or green and nearly without scales (var. virescens). Petiole 5-8 mm, 1/5-1/4 as long as blade; leaf blade oblong-lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, sometimes elliptic-lanceolate, ovate, or oblong-ovate, (2.5-)4-8(-10) × 0.4-3.2(-4) cm, adaxially dull green, or both surfaces silvery, with only white scales, base usually broadly cuneate, apex obtuse or subacute. Flowers 1-3 in axils of older leaves. Pedicel short, ca. 2 mm. Flowers fragrant, outside silvery white, with dense white scales and sparse small yellowish glands, inside yellow. Calyx tube campanulate or broadly campanulate (f. culta), ca. as long as limb, 5-6 × 2.5-3(-5) mm; lobes lanceolate, ovate, or triangular-lanceolate, slightly shorter than tube, inside yellow and glabrous, with sparse small brownish glands, distinctly 3-veined, apex ± acute. Filaments short; anthers oblong. Style base enclosed by tubular disk, curved in upper part, ca. as long as calyx. Drupe yellowish brown, globose-ovoid, globose, or subglobose (var. caspica), 0.7-2.5 × 0.5-1.3 cm, densely silvery scaly when young, subglabrous when mature; scales sparse, brownish; flesh sweet, mealy; stone oblong, oblong-ovoid, or narrowly cylindric (f. culta), both ends obtuse or pointed. Fl. May-Jun, fr. Aug-Oct. 2n = 28.
Sea coasts, river and lake shores, dry river beds, mountains. Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Liaoning, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Xinjiang [Afghanistan, NW India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan; SW Asia, E Europe; naturalized in North America].
This species is widely grown for its fruit ("Russian Olive," "Trebizond date"), and local cultivars have been developed. It also produces a valuable gum and useful timber, and is used for land reclamation. It can be invasive and has been declared a noxious weed in some parts of North America.