Invasive Species Sheet - Autumn Olive
Invasive Species Identification Sheet
Autumn-Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.)
Alternate Common Name: Japanese Silverberry
-shrub or small tree that lacks catkins in the Spring; youngest twigs
-leaves silvery in color (very much so on back sides); alternate; margins wavy,
but not toothed
-leaf backs and stems have brown dots (especially in Spring)
-fruits abundant; berry-like; red, when ripe, dotted with silver or brown; found
-frequently there are a few sharp thorns hidden among the leaves
Autumn-Olive is readily-spotted by its early leafing out; silvery leaves;
numerous, round, red berry-like fruits; and
its ability to fill open areas rapidly with dense thickets. All species of
Elaeagnus in the USA have silvery,
leaves. Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia
L.), a non-native species which also behaves invasively, is found in
New England, but is less-frequently seen than Autumn-Olive.
The silvery color and brownish dots come from tiny, scale-like particles. In
Autumn-Olive, most of the silvery
particles are soon shed, while in Russian-Olive, the leaves long remain densely
silvery on their backs. The 1"-3"
long Autumn-Olive leaves are wider than the typical narrow, willow-like leaves
of Russian Olive. In early
summer, the fruits of Autumn-Olive are brown, very scaly, and not yet juicy.
They become juicy and yellow, with
scattered dots, finally turning red in the Fall. Russian Olive fruits are drier,
oblong in shape (resembling a small
olive), and they ripen to yellow or reddish-brown with a dense covering of
Because airborne nitrogen can be “fixed” in its roots, Autumn-Olive has the
capability to grow in infertile habitats.
This can harm native plants normally protected from competition by the inability
of most other plants to tolerate
extremely low levels of nitrogen in the soil.