Morphology, biochemistry, and management of Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L.) accessions in Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Pakistan

Muhammad Abubakkar Azmat, Asif Ali Khan, Iqrar Ahmad Khan, Andreas Buerkert, Martin Wiehle


Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L., Elagnaceae) is a native multi-purpose medicinal shrub or tree of Asian regions and an integral component of high altitude terraced agroforestry systems of Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Pakistan. The strong increase in deforestation, urbanisation, and the loss of ethnically-based medication practices in local communities are gradually leading to depletion of its stands and knowledge of its use. In view of these circumstances, this study was undertaken to characterise Russian olive accessions as a first step towards the conservation of this important wild plant genetic resource. Ninety-three fruits (including seeds) and leaves were sampled to determine morphological variability among accessions. In addition, the phenolic composition of fruit pulp of 40 fruits was used for determination of phenolic compounds. To assess the local importance of the fruit, 42 Russian olive collectors and traders were interviewed. Data were analysed using PCA and clustering approaches. Fruit traits across groups were equally shared. Elevation had a positive effect on fruit and seed dimensions especially on length (r = 0.606 and 0.515, respectively) and weight (r = 0.618 and 0.695, respectively). Bioactive substances such as DPPH and flavonoids in the sampled fruits exceeded most values found in the literature by a factor of 100 and 30, respectively. The socio-economic household analysis highlighted that Russian olive harvest and trade is a purely additional income strategy. On average, about 90 € (ca. 16000 PKR) were earned by one household ranging from about 35 € to about 205 € per year. Data yielded a mixed picture on morphological and biochemical diversity as well as the socio-economic background, but indicated that northern regions of Pakistan might be an important centre for biodiversity of this species in Central Asia, which merits improved marketing.


Biodiversity, flavonoid content, medicinal plant, oleaster, phenolic content, principal component analysis, tannin content, two-step cluster analysis

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