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Autumn Olive

(Elaeagnus umbellata)

Other Names:

Japanese Silverberry, Umbellata Oleaster, Autumn Elaeagnus, Spreading Oleaster

Range:

Family:

Elaeagnaceae - The Oleaster Family

Identifying characteristics:

Growth Type:

Somewhere between a hefty shrub and a small, tough, sprawling tree. Look for several gnarled spreading trunks emanating from a single point. trunks can be up to 6in in diameter. The bush can sometimes reach 16ft. the branches produce formidable thorns. As the plant ages, it loses some of it's thorns.

Height:

Up to 20 feet tall, and 30 feet around.

Leaves:

Elliptical to ovate in shape the leaves are tough and leathery. They are a dark, dull green on top, and distinctively silvery underneath. They are borne alternately on the branches. The leaf margins are often wavy, or curled, giving the bush a slightly silvery appearance from a distance.

Stem/Trunk:

The bark on young trunks and branches is smooth and graying green. The twigs are covered with tiny silvery flakes or scales.

Root:

Spreading root system. The roots contain nitrogen fixing nodules which can cause environmental damage.

Flower:

Season:

Mid to late Spring.

Appearance:

Copious amounts of pale yellow flowers which hang in crowded clusters from the leaf axils. Each flower is about 1/3 inch long, and has 4 petals joined at the base to form a tube.

Seed/Fruit:

olive shaped, and typically a little smaller than a pea. The fruits hang green all summer, and begin to plump up and turn a bright orange red in early autumn, but remain coated in silvery flakes. Each fruit produces one seed that is soft shelled and constricted to a point at each end. The seeds are yellow to tan and they have prominent lines running their length.

Miscellaneous characteristics:

Native to Asia, Elaeagnus umbellata was introduced to the US in the 1830's. Due to its early leafing, and late retention of those leaves, it shades out other native species. Nitrogen fixing root nodules add nitrogen to the soil. This makes it less desirable for native plants which have evolved to thrive in our low nitrogen soils.

Habitat:

Native to Asia, it was introduced to the US in 1830. It has escaped cultivation, and is found in all but the driest parts of the United States and Canada. Autumn Olive grown in full sunlight, or light shade. Look for it in old homesteads, waste areas, overgrown pastures, and along forest edges. It also produces groves in road medians and at highway cloverleafs.

Parts Used:

Fruit - Harvested from September through October, and in some cases into November. I have found bushes with fruit while deer hunting.

Uses:

Wild Food Uses:

Eaten fresh, jams, jellies, pies. The fruit is high in oxidants and vitamin C.

The following text is meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or injury. Always consult with a physician or other qualified medical care provider concerning the diagnosis and treatment of any illness or injury.

Medicinal Uses:

High levels of vitamin C will help prevent scurvy.

Medicinal Actions:

Antioxidant, Antiscorbutic

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Revised: 05/11/16 Living Afield