Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

300x225Originally from East Asia, Autumn Olive was introduced into the US in 1830 to provide wildlife habitat and windbreaks and to serve ornamental purposes. This nitrogen-fixing deciduous shrub can be found in fields, open woodlands, and disturbed areas from Maine to West Virginia. It is a threat to native ecosystems because it out-competes native plants by creating dense shade, and it disrupts nutrient cycling and natural plant succession.

300x225 2The shrub can grow up to 20 feet high and has smooth, dull green, lance-shaped leaves with pale yellow flowers that bloom in June and July. These are followed by abundant small, red-brown fruit that can be found from August through October. Young plants can be hand pulled, assuring that the roots are removed. But with larger specimens or infestations, a combination of cutting and herbicide application usually works well. Herbivorous animals do not eat Autumn Olive, and few insects seem to eat the shrub. Canker disease can sometimes kill off the plant. There are several native alternative shrubs including Highbush Blueberry, Southern Arrowwood, Gray Dogwood, Maleberry, Chokeberry, American Cranberry Bush, Fothergilla, Inkberry, and Common Winterberry.