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Autumn olive

Elaeagnus umbellata


Origin: Autumn olive is native to China, Japan, and Korea. It was introduced to the United States from Japan in 1830 and has often been used in revegetating disturbed areas. It has also been sold for landscaping and gardens.


Description: Autumn olive is a deciduous shrub reaching 3-20 feet in height with alternate, ovate, untoothed leaves 1-3 inches long. The upper surfaces of its leaves are dark green with silvery flecks, and the undersides are silvery. Spring flowers are white or yellow, and summer fruits are abundant, reddish berries, also with some flecks.


Habitat description: This large shrub can be found in a variety of habitat types, widespread across the county. It does best in full sun and is often found invading abandoned fields and along woodland edges. It usually diminishes in abundance as young forest matures and the canopy closes. It is able to "fix" nitrogen utilizing it for growth. This attribute allows it to grow in very poor soils where many native shrubs struggle. Healthy examples of this plant can be seen along the South side of SR 46, in a fence row bordering the Brown County School Corporation - Eagle Park.


Distribution: Autumn olive is found in disturbed areas, along roadsides, in fields and pastures, and in sparse woods.


Problem: Autumn olive grows quickly, fruits profusely, is widely dispersed by birds, and can thrive in poor soil due to its ability to fix nitrogen. It can alter the nitrogen cycle of its environment and out-compete native plant species. It creates heavy shade, inhibiting the growth of plants that need direct sunlight.


Control: Hand-pulling of seedlings or small plants may be effective, but care should be taken not to disturb the soil more than necessary. Glyphosate (3%) or triclopyr (3%) may be sprayed onto leaves. This can be done anytime during the growing season. Well-established stands are probably best controlled by cutting stems to ground-level and spraying or painting the cut stumps with a 20% glyphosate solution or a 20% solution of triclopyr and basal oil.


USE PESTICIDES WISELY: Always read the entire pesticide label carefully, follow all mixing and application instructions and wear all recommended personal protective gear and clothing. Contact your state department of agriculture for any additional pesticide use requirements, restrictions or recommendations.

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