Autumn Olive

Fact SheetTreatmentElaeagnus umbellata

Invader Images

    • Alternate long oval leaves, with silvery undersides, and slight wave to the edge
      Alternate long oval leaves, with silvery undersides, and slight wave to the edge
    • Autumn olive infestation
      Autumn olive infestation
    • Autumn olive fruit is reddish to pink, round, and covered in scales that look like silvery spots
      Autumn olive fruit is reddish to pink, round, and covered in scales that look like silvery spots

Common Look-alikes

    • Russian olive has silvery scales covering both sides of its leaves
      Russian olive has silvery scales covering both sides of its leaves

Identification

Appearance

Elaeagnus umbellata is a deciduous shrub from 3-20 ft. (0.9-6.1 m) in height with thorny branches. It is easily recognized by the silvery, dotted underside of the leaves.

Foliage

Leaves are alternate, 2-3 in. (5-8 cm) long and 1 in. (2.5 cm) wide. The margins are entire and undulate. Leaves are bright green to gray green above and silver scaly beneath with short petioles.

Flowers

Small, yellowish tubular flowers are abundant and occur in clusters of 5 to 10 near the stems from February to June.

Fruit

Fruits are round, red, juicy drupes which are finely dotted with silvery to silvery-brown scales. Each drupe contains one seed. Fruits ripen from August to November.

Check out the downloadable fact sheet above.

 

Biology

Ecological Threat

Autumn olive invades old fields, woodland edges, and other disturbed areas. It can form a dense shrub layer which displaces native species and closes open areas.

Origin

Native to China and Japan and was introduced into North America in 1830.

Habitat

Man-made or disturbed habitats, forest edges, meadows, and fields. This plant that thrives in a variety of conditions, in part because it is capable of fixing nitrogen.

Life Cycle

Plants flower and develop fruits annually after reaching 3 years of age, although 2-year-old plants have been known to flower. A single plant can produce up to 8 pounds of fruit. Birds seem to be the primary vector for seed dispersal, although raccoons, skunks, and opossums are also known to eat the fruit.

Management Options

This species is considered a watch list species. 

Check out the downloadable treatment sheet above.

Mechanical Control

Removal of plants on site may only be a temporary solution. Plants will continue to seed in from adjacent areas causing a reoccurring control issue. Autumn olive also resprouts vigorously after mowing, cutting or burning, often becoming more vigorous with each regrowth even when repeated for many years.

Mechanical controls, including pulling and digging, can be effective at eliminating small seedlings and sprouts. Pulling should take place when adequate soil moisture is available to allow the removal of the entire root system. Autumn olive is easily seen in the spring since it leafs out when most other native vegetation is still dormant.

Chemical Control

Chemical control is the most effective method for controlling autumn olive. Numerous techniques exist for applying herbicides. But, the cut stump treatment is probably the most effective method. This technique involves two steps, first cutting the plant down close to the ground and then applying a liquid herbicide to the stump. The plant can be cut with a chainsaw, handsaw, or brush mower. A formulation of glyphosate, in a 20-50 percent solution, is then applied immediately to the cut stump surface by using a low pressure hand held sprayer. This type of treatment has proved effective in killing the root system and preventing resprouting when applied late in the growing season (July-September) but is also effective during the dormant season.

Foliar applications have also proven effective in controlling this species. Many different chemicals can be used including glyphosate, dicamba, and 2,4-D. This technique is most effective during the summer months from July to August. Complete coverage of the plant is necessary but do not spray to the point of runoff. Care must be taken to avoid herbicide contact with desirable vegetation since damage can result.

  • Be careful not to damage or kill nearby native plants when conducting management work. And when using herbicides, always follow the instructions on the label.

How You Can Help

 

Native/non-invasive alternatives

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), Dogwoods (Cornus sp.),  Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Native Perennials and Shrubs for Vermont Gardens​​

Choose native plants

Alternatives to Common Invasive Plants and Characteristics of Select Alternatives