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Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive, Elaegnus umbellata, Photo by WNY PRISM

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Common Name: Autumn olive
Scientific Name: Elaeagnus umbellata
Origin: Asia

Description

Autumn olive is a large deciduous shrub that can grow to a height of 15 ft, and a width of 20 ft. Its dull green leaves are oval, or lance-shaped, with entire, wavy margins and silvery undersides. Autumn olive flowers in the early summer. Mature shrubs produce dense clusters of bright red berries.

Habitat

Autumn olive is drought-tolerant and can be found in grasslands, open woodlands, forest edges and other disturbed areas.

Threat

Autumn olive outcompetes and shades out native plants. It hosts nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its root nodules, similar to a legume, allowing it to grow in even the least fertile soils. Its nitrogen-fixing ability can also alter soil composition and disrupt normal nutrient cycling. A single shrub can produce 200,000 seeds in one year. Its berries are very attractive to birds, which help the seeds disperse.

Management

Seedlings can be hand pulled. Larger trees may be cut and have herbicide applied to the stump. Follow-up treatments may be necessary.

Regional Distribution

Common

WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 4 – Local Control

Invasive Species Priorities – Tier Chart

Pathways

Autumn olive was introduced to the US as an ornamental plant in the early 19th century.

Autumn olive is a prohibited species in New York State – for more information on Prohibited and Regulated Species, visit http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99141.html.

Native Alternatives

Serviceberry (Amelanchier)

American plum (Prunus americana)

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

American/high-bush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)