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Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
Large deciduous shrub with silvery foliage. Autumn olive grows up to 20’ tall. Twigs are covered by small silvery scales.
Autumn olive is Restricted (Orange counties)
Other names for this plant include:
- Common names: autumn elaeagnus, oleaster, silverberry, spreading oleaster
- Scientific names: E. crispa; E. umbellata car. parvifolia; E. parvifolia
- Autumn olive invades open and forested natural areas, as well as roadsides and agricultural fields.
- Thrives in high light conditions where it can produce numerous fruits.
- Alters nutrient cycling by adding nitrogen to the soil.
Classification in Wisconsin: Restricted
Species Assessment Groups (SAG) were assembled to recommend a legal classification for each species considered for NR 40. The recommendation for autumn olive was based upon this literature review developed by the department.
Leaves: Simple and alternate. Autumn olive’s leaves are dark green on top and silver-gray on the underside, lance-shaped or elliptic, with entire, wavy margins. It has a gray-green hue when seen from a distance.
Flowers: Tube- or bell-shaped, fragrant, and borne in leaf axils. Bloom in late spring. Autumn olive flowers are creamy white to light yellow.
Fruits & seeds: Fruits of the autumn olive are small, fleshy, egg-shaped, and pink to red with silver scales. Seeds are dispersed by birds.
Roots: Associated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Cutting or other damage causes root suckering.
Similar species: Russian olive; invasive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a tree that can reach 30’ with twigs that have a terminal spine. Russian olive’s leaves are silver on both sides, longer and more lance-shaped and the flowers are yellow inside and silver outside. Fruits of Russian olive are yellow, dry, and olive-like. This aggressive invader prefers open areas, including wet areas; it uses water more quickly than native species, and it can dry out riparian areas.
Two native buffaloberries, silver (Sheperdia argentea) and russet (S. canadensis), have silvery foliage but their leaves are opposite.
Counties in WI where autumn olive has been reported (as of July 2011). Both vouchered and unvouchered reports included.
Do you have autumn olive in your county but it isn't shaded on the map? Send us a report.
Mechanical: Pull seedlings. Cutting, mowing, and burning not recommended because plants will resprout unless followed up with chemical control.
Chemical: Treat foliage, cut surface, or girdled stem with glyphosate, triclopyr ester, or metsulfuron methyl with a surfactant. Basal bark application of triclopyr ester can also be effective. Treat foliage with a liquid spray during the active growing season. For cut stump or girdled bark treatment, use liquid herbicide by painting, dripping, or sponging onto surface.
View autumn olive pictures in our photo gallery!
Sources for content:
- USDA Forest Service, Northeastern Area Forest Health Staff. Weed of the Week: Autumn Olive
- Hilty, John. Illinois Wildflowers. Weedy Wildflowers of Illinois – Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata).
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