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Invasive, Exotic Plants of the Southeast

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive

Common Name: Autumn Olive

Scientific Name: Eleagnus umbellata

Identification: Autumn Olive is a deciduous shrub that may reach between 3 to 20 feet in height.  The shrub has alternate, elliptical leaves with a silver underside.  The bark is olive drab with many white lenticels and the branches contain many thorns.  Five to 10 tubular, silver or yellow flowers appear between February and June.  During August to November, red berries mature.

Ecology: Autumn Olive is shade tolerant but prefers dry sites.  This extremely invasive shrub spreads by bird-dispersed seeds.  The shrub first appears along forest edges and openings, eventually forming dense stands throughout the forest understory.

Plant Control:Individual shrubs in the home landscape are probably best controlled by cutting the plant back to the ground in late summer and treating the cut ends with undiluted glyphosate concentrate (53.8% preferable but 41% okay) or by digging up the rootball.  Collect and bag any fruit if possible.  If a thicket is present, cut all stems back to the ground with a chainsaw or weed-eater with a brush blade attachment. Allow the cut stems to re-sprout, then spray the ground level foliage with a 5% solution of glyphosate with surfactant. Retreat as necessary for full control.  Monitor for seedlings and spray or hand-pull when found.
Alternative Native Species: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera)

When using herbicides remember to follow label-recommendations.  Any mention of trade, products, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University.

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