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ELAEAGNUS umbellata

Image of Elaeagnus umbellata

Russell Stafford

Family

Elaeagnaceae

Botanical Name

ELAEAGNUS umbellata

Plant Common Name

Autumn Olive

General Description

Though native to China, Korea and Japan, autumn olive has become naturalized across all of eastern North America since its initial introduction in 1830. The silvery red berries of this large deciduous shrub are produced in profusion and eaten and spread by birds and other wildlife. Tough and fast-growing, the autumn olive was once favored as a roadside shrub because it creates fast cover and fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. It has since fallen into disfavor because it is a proven invasive species that aggressively crowds out native species.

The silvery branches of autumn olive have branch spurs armed with substantially long thorns. The simple, elliptical, bright green leaves are alternate and have silvery gray scales on their undersides. Pretty, fragrant clusters of tubular, four-petaled flowers of palest yellow are produced in spring to early summer. These also have silver scales on the outside. Clusters of red, berry-like drupes are produced in fall. These also covered with a smattering of silvery scales. Birds and other wild animals relish the fruits that remain on the branches into early winter.

Elaeagnus are durable shrubs that tolerate most soils as long as they are moderately well-drained. All species fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, a characteristic that allows them to grow better in poorer soils. Full sun is preferred but shade is tolerated. Most silverthorns are very resistant to salt and wind as well as pests and diseases. These large shrubs generally need plenty of room to grow and may require regular pruning to keep the long branches in check. They are very informal plants best employed as hedges, wind breaks or screens.

Because of its invasive nature, it is advisable to refrain from planting autumn olive in North America or other countries where it has become weedy and problematic. To learn more about the invasive nature of this shrub, visit the USDA's National Invasive Species information Center at http://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/plants/autmnolive.shtml

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    8 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    3 - 8

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    12'-18' / 3.7m - 5.5m

  • Width

    8'-15' / 2.4m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    Eastern Asia, China, Japan, Korea

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Average

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow, Silver

  • Fruit Color

    Light Yellow, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Light Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gold, Tan, Silver

  • Bark Color

    Dark Green, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Smooth

  • Usage

    Edible, Foundation, Mixed Border, Screening / Wind Break

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    Yes

  • Attracts

    Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes