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Invasive, Exotic Plants of the Southeast


Thorny Olive

Thorny Olive

Common Name: Thorny Olive

Scientific Name: Eleagnus pungens

Identification: Thorny Olive is a deciduous bushy shrub that may reach 3 to 25 feet in height.  The shrub has alternate, elliptical leaves that are silver scaly in spring but become scattered with brown scales beneath later in the year.  The bark is dark and the branches contain many thorns.  Fragrant, tubular, silver or brown flowers appear between October and December.  During March to June, the fruits mature.

Ecology: Thorny Olive is shade, drought, and salt tolerant.  This fast growing invasive shrub is spread by birds-dispersed seeds.

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: Rusty Blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum), Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), Carolina Laurel Cherry (Prunus caroliniana), Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

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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