Autumn Olive

Scientific name: Elaeagnus umbellata
Common names: Autumn olive, Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Japanese Silverberry
Native To: Asia
Date of U.S. Introduction: 1830
Means of Introduction: Ornamental; cultivated for wildlife habitat and erosion control
Impact: Crowds out native species

Autumn olive is a small, spiny deciduous shrub-like tree capable of reaching 20 feet in height. It has alternate oval leaves with silvery undersides. The leaves are simple and lack marginal teeth, but the margins are often crisped or wavy. The small, yellowish-white flowers reach the peak of bloom around mid-May and are highly fragrant. The fleshy fruits are brown at first and mature to a reddish hue with minute metallic dots. Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is similar in appearance but its leaves are silvery on both sides and its fruits are yellow.

Why is it a problem? A rapid grower and prolific seed producer, autumn olive outcompetes and displaces native shrubs. It forms monotypic stands and reduces floral and habitat diversity. As a nitrogen fixer, it can alter nutrient cycle dynamics and change soil suitability for other shrub species.

For more information please visit Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group.