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Elaeagnus Umbellata - Thunb.

Common Name Autumn Olive
Family Elaeagnaceae
USDA hardiness 3-9
Known Hazards E. umbellata has the potential of becoming one of the most troublesome adventive shrubs in the central and eastern United States.
Habitats Thickets and thin woods in the lowland and hills[58].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan, Himalayas.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Elaeagnus Umbellata Autumn Olive

Elaeagnus Umbellata Autumn Olive


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Autumn olive is a nitrogen-fixing deciduous shrub or small tree growing up to 4.5m (14ft) at a medium growth rate. The flowers are fragrant, blooming in the spring, with a lovely warm spice smell. Autumn olive can grow in nutritionally poor soil and can tolerate drought and maritime exposure.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Elaeagnus Umbellata is a deciduous Shrub growing to 4.5 m (14ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


E. crispa.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Seed
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[2, 46, 105]. Juicy and pleasantly acid, they are tasty raw and can also be made into jams, preserves etc[160, 183, 194]. The fruit must be fully ripe before it can be enjoyed raw, if even slightly under-ripe it will be quite astringent[K]. The fruit contains about 8.3% sugars, 4.5% protein, 1% ash[194]. The vitamin C content is about 12mg per 100g[194]. Mature bushes in the wild yield about 650g of fruit over 2 - 3 pickings[194]. The harvested fruit stores for about 15 days at room temperature[194]. The fruit is about 8mm in diameter[200] and contains a single large seed[K]. Seed - raw or cooked[194]. It can be eaten with the fruit though the seed case is rather fibrous[160].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Astringent  Cancer  Cardiac  Pectoral  Stimulant  Vitamin C

The flowers are astringent, cardiac and stimulant[240]. The seeds are used as a stimulant in the treatment of coughs[240]. The expressed oil from the seeds is used in the treatment of pulmonary affections[240]. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers[214].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Companion  Fodder  Fuel  Hedge  Hedge

Very tolerant of maritime exposure, it makes a good informal hedge, succeeding even in very exposed positions[75]. The plants make a reasonable wind-protecting screen, they are about as wide as they are tall. They make a good companion hedge, enriching the soil and fertilizing neighbouring plants[K]. The wood is a good fuel[146].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Carbon Farming  Food Forest  Hedge  Hedge  Nitrogen Fixer  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Fodder: Bank  Industrial Crop: Biomass  Management: Coppice  Management: Standard  Minor Global Crop

Succeeds in most soils that are well-drained[11, 200], though it dislikes shallow chalk soils[98]. It prefers a soil that is only moderately fertile, succeeding in very poor soils and in dry soils[11, 200]. Prefers a light sandy loam and a sunny position[11]. Established plants are very drought resistant[1]. A very hardy plant, tolerating temperatures down to at least -40°c[200]. This species is somewhat similar to E. multiflora, but it flowers a few weeks later[182]. Sometimes cultivated for its edible fruit, there are some named varieties[183]. 'Cardinal' and 'Red Wing' are very good fruiting forms (developed for ornament and not for fruit quality)[182]. 'Jazbo' has been bred for its edible fruits which are said to be ripe when 'they drop into your hand'[214]. This makes them valuable in breeding programmes to develop easily harvested fruits[214]. Flowers are rich in nectar and very aromatic, they are much visited by bees. Polymorphic[11, 275]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. Plants can fruit in 6 years from seed[160]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[160, 200]. An excellent companion plant, when grown in orchards it can increase yields from the fruit trees by up to 10%. In garden design, as well as the above-ground architecture of a plant, root structure considerations help in choosing plants that work together for their optimal soil requirements including nutrients and water. The root pattern is branching: a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [2-1].

Carbon Farming

  • Agroforestry Services: Nitrogen  Plants that contribute to nitrogen fixation include the legume family – Fabaceae.
  • Agroforestry Services: Windbreak  Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to enhance crop production, protect people and livestock and benefit soil and water conservation.
  • Fodder: Bank  Fodder banks are plantings of high-quality fodder species. Their goal is to maintain healthy productive animals. They can be utilized all year, but are designed to bridge the forage scarcity of annual dry seasons. Fodder bank plants are usually trees or shrubs, and often legumes. The relatively deep roots of these woody perennials allow them to reach soil nutrients and moisture not available to grasses and herbaceous plants.
  • Industrial Crop: Biomass  Three broad categories: bamboos, resprouting woody plants, and giant grasses. uses include: protein, materials (paper, building materials, fibers, biochar etc.), chemicals (biobased chemicals), energy - biofuels
  • Management: Coppice  Cut to the ground repeatedly - resprouting vigorously. Non-destructive management systems maintaining the soil organic carbon.
  • Management: Standard  Plants grow to their standard height. Harvest fruit, seeds, or other products. Non-Destructive management systems.
  • Minor Global Crop  These crops are already grown or traded around the world, but on a smaller scale than the global perennial staple and industrial crops, The annual value of a minor global crop is under $1 billion US. Examples include shea, carob, Brazil nuts and fibers such as ramie and sisal.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[78]. It should germinate in late winter or early spring, though it may take 18 months[K]. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help[98]. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well[78]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 10 - 12cm with a heel, November in a frame. Leave for 12 months. Fair to good percentage[78]. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Japanese silverberry, Umbellata oleaster, Autumn olive, Autumn elaeagnus, Spreading oleaster

TEMPERATE ASIA: China, Gansu Sheng, Hokkaidô (west), Honshu, Hubei Sheng, Japan, Jiangsu Sheng, Korea, Kyushu, Liaoning Sheng, Shaanxi Sheng, Shandong Sheng, Shanxi Sheng, Shikoku, Sichuan Sheng, Taiwan, Xizang Zizhiqu, Yunnan Sheng, Zhejiang Sheng,Afghanistan. TROPICAL ASIA: Bhutan, India, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Nepal, Pakistan,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Invasive across wild and cultivated areas, particularly in the eastern United States.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Elaeagnus angustifoliaOleaster, Russian oliveShrub7.0 2-7 MLMHNDM424
Elaeagnus commutataSilverberryShrub3.0 2-6 MLMHNDM324
Elaeagnus cordifolia Shrub4.0 0-0 MLMHFSNDM523
Elaeagnus formosana Shrub0.0 -  LMHSNDM22 
Elaeagnus fragrans Shrub3.0 - MLMHNDM222
Elaeagnus glabraGoat nippleShrub6.0 7-10 MLMHFSNDM423
Elaeagnus gonyanthes Shrub4.0 - MLMHNDM22 
Elaeagnus latifoliaBastard OleasterShrub3.0 8-11 MLMHNDM322
Elaeagnus macrophyllaBroad-leaved OleasterShrub3.0 6-9 MLMHFSNDM523
Elaeagnus maritima Shrub6.0 -  LMHFSNDM22 
Elaeagnus montana Shrub4.0 - MLMHNDM22 
Elaeagnus multifloraGoumi, Cherry silverberryShrub3.0 5-9 MLMHSNDM523
Elaeagnus multiflora ovataGoumiShrub3.0 5-9 MLMHSNDM523
Elaeagnus oldhamii Shrub4.0 -  LMHSNDM22 
Elaeagnus orientalisTrebizond DateShrub12.0 4-8 MLMHNDM422
Elaeagnus parvifoliaAutumn oliveShrub4.5 3-7 MLMHNDM422
Elaeagnus pungensElaeagnus, Thorny olive, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry, Silverthorn, Pungent ElaeagnusShrub4.0 6-10 MLMHFSNDM523
Elaeagnus pyriformis Shrub0.0 - MLMHNDM22 
Elaeagnus thunbergii Shrub3.0 -  LMHSNDM22 
Elaeagnus umbellataAutumn OliveShrub4.5 3-9 MLMHNDM423
Elaeagnus x ebbingeiElaeagnus, Ebbing's SilverberryShrub5.0 5-9 MLMHFSNDM524
Elaeagnus x reflexaTurned-leaf ElaeagnusShrub4.5 6-9 MLMHFSNDM324
Elaeagnus yoshinoi Shrub5.0 -  LMHSNDM22 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Jim Watkins   Sun Aug 20 2006

Sorry, you have it backwards. Many people do this. If the fruit is red its Autumn Olive. Russian Olive is Elaeagnus Angustifolia. It has yellow flowers and yellow fruit.

Jonathan Kohrman   Sun Apr 22 2007

WE have several elaeagnus umbelata grown from small bareroot plants. After only three years they are getting very large, great handsome plants. Last summer they were all covered in berries. Once they turned deep red they were delicious, like sweet sour cherries or even pomegranate seeds. Our children (and we) loved them and would pop great big handfuls in our mouths. They hung on the bushes and stayed fresh for well over a month. Great fun! We are in zone 5 Western Massachusetts.

Kevin Feinstein   Mon Sep 3 2007

This plant is amazing! It's considered to be invasive in many parts of the United States, although I believe this label arises out of misunderstanding. It's a pioneer plant, and offers such an amazing food source, containing Omega 3 fatty acids! If it were a tropical species, I believe it would be marketed as a gourmet health food, or superfood. Instead, the economies of the more "developed" world make their income from this Elaeagnus by spraying poisons to eliminate it. I also find it interesting that it's considered invasive at all because I can't get any of the seeds to germinate.

feralkevin video and commentary from the emerging sustainable culture

Stewart Forrester   Sat Sep 8 2007

USDA Agricultural Research Site Researchers have analyzed these berries and found very high lycopene content-averaging between 15 and 54 mg per 100 g of the fruit.

Mark   Tue Sep 18 2007

I have 4 of these trees/bushs(?) and I the deer and the birds find them delicious. I live in Rhode Island and am now trying to make Mead out of the berries. I am also considering introduceing them to an edge along a new construction that has cut off the deer from my property :( I have no problems with them spreading like weeds and they don't have any thorns or tendrils. So I am unclear on what exact species I have. Here they are refered to as Deer Berries. Which is one reason it has taken me a year to find out what they actually are. This is a great picture of what my plants look like. http://www.hort.uconn.edu/Plants/e/elaumb/elaumb07.jpg http://www.missouriplants.com/Whitealt/Elaeagnus_umbellata_page.html http://www.fw.vt.edu/DENDRO/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=269 I will be trimming one of these to tree shape and see how it does next year. At the moment it droops to ground when bearing fruit. Rhode Island 2 inches soil sand underneath. Grows healthey and none invasive. Approx 15ft tall 13 ft wide. Refered to as:Deer Berry, DeerBerry,Deer Berries, DeerBerries

Rob   Thu Dec 6 2007

I am wondering about using autumn olive as a animal forage (goat). Has anyone tried this?

   Mon Dec 8 2008

how did the elaeagnus umbellate come to new england

Scott DiLoreto   Sat Feb 14 2009

Is anyone out there aware of any active autumn olive breeding efforts, either for human food or forage purposes? Thanks

Robert Gergulics   Sat Apr 11 2009


   Fri Dec 4 2009

What date did Elaeagnus Umbellate (Autumn Olive) arive in New England?

   Sep 26 2011 12:00AM

Eleagnus Umbellata grows very fast here in Pacific Northwest. My 3 year old plants are already more than 4m tall. The problem with my 2 bushes is that they have not produced any fruit yet. I also have Goumi and it produced fruit when it was one year old.

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