Autumn olive

Elaeagnus parvifolia


Elaeagnus umbellata, also known as autumn olive or Japanese silverberry, is a hardy shrub native to eastern Asia. It grows up to 11 feet tall and features dense foliage, often with sharp thorns. The leaves start as silvery and turn green with silver scales underneath. In spring to early summer, it produces fragrant clusters of white to yellow flowers, which are significant for pollinators like bees. By early fall, the plant bears small red berries that are both sweet and tart, consumed fresh or used in jams and condiments.

Initially introduced to North America and Europe in the 19th century for erosion control, wildlife habitats, and as an ornamental plant, Elaeagnus umbellata has become a problematic invasive species. It thrives in disturbed areas and moist open woodlands, rapidly spreading and out-competing native plants. The shrub’s ability to fix nitrogen in the soil allows it to grow vigorously even in poor soils, further enhancing its competitive edge.

Despite its beneficial uses, such as increasing fruit yields in nearby orchards and providing habitat and food for wildlife, the plant’s invasive nature has led to it being banned in several states. It produces abundant seeds that are dispersed by birds and animals, making control efforts difficult. Hand-pulling young plants, ensuring complete root removal, is one method of eradication, but its tenacity makes it a persistent challenge in affected areas.


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