The Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.), also known as the Japanese silverberry, was introduced into the United States as an ornamental shrub around 1830 from East Asia for its reddish and silver speckled berries. A quick and weedy grower in poor quality soil, it was also used for erosion control. Unfortunately, these traits (high fecundity, rapid growth, tolerance of poor quality soil) make autumn olive a dangerous competitor for native species that are also accustomed to nitrogen poor environments which previously had few competitors.
The shrubs can be identified by their oval to lanceolate leaves, small light yellow flowers, and small round reddish to pink fruits with silver specks. These hardy plants are tolerant to salt, drought, and a soil pH as low as 4.0. They thrive in disturbed habitats, but not in wet habitats or in dense forests. Autumn olive can be found in most of the eastern United States as well as some of the western states. They can be removed mechanically as seedlings or chemically, although care must be taken not to kill non-target species.
***For recipes featuring the tasty fruit of this invasive plant, check out our autumn olive jam!***