florida Early Detection Network


Autumn olive


Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.


Oleaster family


Elaeagnus umbellata

Close-up of flowers

Close-up of fruit

Nitrogen-fixing nodules

Fruit on branch





Synonyms: None


Botanical Glossary

Elaeagnus umbellata is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 3.7 m (12 ft.) or more tall. Its untoothed leaves are alternate and range from being oval to somewhat lanceolate. The leaves are 2.5-7.5 cm (1-3 in.) long and are green and glabrescent on the top surface. The undersides of the leaves have silver/white scales. The younger branches have a silver color and are scaly. The silver color becomes a darker brown with maturity. Sometimes the young branches bear thorns. Flowers appear on Elaeagnus umbellata between April and May (after the appearance of the leaves) and are located along the stems in clusters of 1-3 or more together. These fragrant flowers are creamy in color and have a slender perianth tube. The drupe-like fruits are round, juicy, range in color from red to pink (occasionally orange) and have scales on their surface. The size of the fruits is approximately 0.6 cm (0.25 in.). Page References Bailey 718, Fernald 1045, Gleason & Cronquist 307, Holmgren 288, Magee & Ahles 757. See reference section below for full citations.


Elaeagnus angustifolia L. (Russian olive)


The fruit of Elaeagnus umbellata is dispersed mostly by birds as well as small mammals.


Elaeagnus umbellata is native to China, Korea and Japan. On the east coast of the U.S. it is located from Maine to Virginia. It is reported as far west at Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. It has been reported in all the states of New England.


Elaeagnus umbellata was first imported for cultivation into the U.S. in 1830 from Japan. In the 1940's Elaeagnus umbellata was often used for the revegetation of disturbed habitats. These plantings were often done because the fruits of Elaeagnus umbellata are a source of food for different types of animals (birds, mammals). However, because the fruit is so desirable to wildlife, birds and other animals have spread the plant throughout a wide range. In 1963, the cultivar 'Cardinal' (which has a heavy fruit-load) was released to nurseries for commercial purposes, adding to the species' spread via plantings along roads for soil conservation, landscaping and gardens. It has also been used to interplant with black walnut (Juglans nigra) to produce higher yields.


Abandoned Field, Abandoned Gravel Pit, Early Successional Forest, Edge, Pasture, Planted Forest, Railroad Right-of-Way, Roadside, Utility Right-of-Way, Vacant Lot, Yard or Garden. Elaeagnus umbellata is found in pastures, fields, sparse woodlands and planted as ornamentals along roads. It is often found in poor soils because it has nitrogen-fixing nodules that allow it to tolerate these conditions. It can survive the effects of salt, drought and pH levels as low at 4.0. Elaeagnus umbellata does not grow well in wet habitats or in dense forests.


Once Elaeagnus umbellata is introduced to a region, it seems only a matter of time before it spreads due to the ability of the plant to produce up to 80 lbs. of fruit in a season. Birds (especially Starlings) readily eat the fruit in the fall and spread it for long distances. This efficient dispersal is what has allowed the plant to spread throughout New England. Elaeagnus umbellata suppresses the growth of other plants by creating shade. It is a good competitor because of its ability to fix nitrogen. If it is cut, it resprouts abundantly. Even burning does not rid the area of this plant, because it still resprouts from the stump.


Illinois Nature Preserves Commission

The Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group's Invasive Plant Management Guide Comprehensive management information

Illinois Natural History Survey General description and management guidelines


Documentation required: Photograph of branch with flowers or fruits. Best time for documentation: Spring, fall.


Integrated Taxonomic Information System Taxonomic information

The PLANTS Database General information and a map

Department of Conservation and Recreation: Virginia Native Plant Society General information including control

Virginia Tech Dendrology Description and photographs

Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation Photographs and general information

Virginia Native Plant Society, Virginia department of Cosnervation and Recreation General information including control

University of Connecticut Plant Database Photographs and general information


Bailey, L. H. 1949. Manual of Cultivated Plants. Macmillan, New York.

Catling, P.M., M.J. Oldham, D.A. Sutherland, V.R. Brownell and B.M.H. Larson. 1997. The Recent Spread of Autumn-olive (Eleagnus umbellata) into Southern Ontario and its Current Status. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 111(3):376-380.

Dirr, M.A. 1983. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Stipes Publishing Company, Champaign, Illinois.

Ebinger, J.E. 1983. Exotic Shrubs: A Potential Problem in Natural Area Management in Illinois. Natural Areas Journal. 3(1):3-6.

Edgin, B.E.; J.E. Ebinger. 2001. Control of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.) at Beall Woods State Park, Wabash County, Illinois. Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science 94 (Supplement): 49.

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's Manual of Botany 8th ed. American Book Co., Boston.

Fire Conference 2000. Proceedings of the Invasive Species Workshop: The Role of Fire in the Control and Spread of Invasive Species. The First National Congress on Fire Ecology, Prevention, and Management. Tall Timbers Research Station, Miscellaneous Publication No. 11.

Gleason, H.A. and A.C. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Holmgren, N.H. 1998. Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Kuhns, L. J. 1986. Controlling autumn olive with herbicides. Proc. 40th Ann. Meet. N. E. Weed Sci. Soc Pp. 289-294.

Magee, D.W and H.E. Ahles. 1999. Flora of the Northeast. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

Nestleroad, J., D. Zimmerman and J.Ebinger. 1987. Autumn olive reproduction in Three Illinois State Parks. Transactions of the Illinois Academy of Science. 80(1-2):33-39.

Newcomb, W., D. Baker and J.G. Torrey. 1987. Ontogeny and fine structure of effective root nodules of the autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). Canadian Journal of Botany 65 (1): 80-94.

Paschke, M.W., J.O. Dawson and M.B. David. 1989. Soil nitrogen mineralization in plantations of Juglans nigra interplanted with actinorhizal Elaeagnus umbellata or Alnus glutinosa. Plant and Soil 118: 33-42.

Ponder Jr., F. 1983 (Recd. 1984). Effect of autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) on the mineral composition of black walnut (Juglans nigra) leaves. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 14 (12): 1253-1263.

Rehder, A. 1940. Manual of Cultivated Trees and Shrubs. Macmillan, New York.

Szafoni, R.E. 1991. Vegetation management guideline autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb). Natural Areas Journal 11 (2): 121-122.

USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1. (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.