Autumn olive fruit Autumn olive fruit

Autumn Olive

Elaeagnus umbellata

2019 Status in Maine: Localized. Very Invasive.

Description: Perennial, deciduous shrub, up to 10-15' tall and wide, usually very branched, with silvery and/or brown scales along twigs. Some plants bear 1"+ woody spines. Leaves: Simple, alternate, tapered at both ends (distal end may be blunt-tapered), 1-3" long, leaf edges entire but crinkly/wavy. Lower surface with slivery and brown scales (use hand lens or may be visible with naked eye). Flowers: Fragrant, white to cream to light yellow. Tubular base with 4 pointed petals. Occur in small clusters along twigs at leaf bases, May-June in Maine. Fruit: Roundish, <½" wide, can be slightly longer than wide, light colored scales on surface, start brown and mature through yellow, orange, to red around September.

Native range: China, Korea, Pakistan, and Japan. How arrived in U.S.: As an ornamental; also for food and cover for wildlife.

Reproduction: By seed. Birds and mammals consume fruits and disperse seed. Longevity in seed bank is not known. Plants are mostly dioecious but there are occasional exceptions with male and female flowers on the same plant.

Habitat: Commonly found in old fields, roadsides, forest edges, and fragmented forests. Not tolerant of wet soils. Prefers sun but will germinate in partial or full shade, though growth and reproduction may be slowed. Autumn olive is a nitrogen-fixing species and can therefore colonize very low-nutrient soils.

Autumn olive branch with flowers Autumn olive branch with flowers

Similar native species: Could be confused with shrubby willows, but those lack silvery and brown scales on twigs and leaves, and have very different flowers and fruit.

Similar non-native species: Shrubby honeysuckles also have round, red fruits, but leaves are opposite and more clearly oval (less tapered at ends) and lack scales. Russian olive is similar, with leaves silvery on upper and lower surfaces, but is not naturalized in Maine.

Documented Ecological Impacts

Fact Sheets and Identification Links

Control Methods

Small plants and seedlings may be pulled up by the roots when soil is moist; larger plants can be cut, but re-sprouting will occur*. Persistent cutting or burning of the the root crown multiple times during the growing season over several years may kill the plant, but diligence is required. Mowing can prevent seedlings from establishing. Goats and sheep will browse it but repeated, heavy damage over multiple years is required to kill established shrubs. Herbicides are effective as foliar applications (glyphosate or triclopyr solution), cut-stump application (glyphosate or triclopyr solution applied immediately after cutting except in early spring), or basal bark application (triclopyr ester in bark oil).

* Correctly dispose of all plant parts † Follow all label directions when using herbicides

Control Technique Video Demonstrations

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Autumn olive leaves Autumn olive leaves
Autumn olive growth habit in field Autumn olive growth habit in field
branches of Autumn olive on left, Russian olive on right Autumn olive branch on left, Russian olive on right
Autumn olive twig Autumn olive growth twig
Autumn olive early spring branch Autumn olive early spring branch
Autumn olive leaves Autumn olive leaves