Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Autumn Olive
Elaeagnus umbellata

Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Elaeagnus (el-ee-AG-nus) (Info)
Species: umbellata (um-bell-AY-tuh) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

18 members have or want this plant for trade.


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Soil pH requirements:
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Scarify seed before sowing

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing

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By Hogwaump
Thumbnail #1 of Elaeagnus umbellata by Hogwaump

By Hogwaump
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By Sarahskeeper
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There are a total of 15 photos.
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4 positives
4 neutrals
6 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral malakai On Nov 9, 2014, malakai from Hampton, FL wrote:

I planted several autumn olives in the swamps of North-Central Florida. Only one survived, but the one that did survive has thrived. It has flowered for at least three years but unfortunately has not produced any fruit. I've heard that these are self fertile, but since this is likely the only potential autumn olive plant in the county, it being self fruitful may just be a myth. Maybe people believe it is self pollinating because where most people are growing them, there are plants nearby, even if there is only one plant on a particular property. Then again, this plant just may not fruit this far south, despite flowering. For the record, I've had its close cousin, the Goumi, produce fruit here.

Negative Rickwebb On Feb 15, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It has pretty silvery foliage and white flowers, but it grows straggly, it is dirty, and it has sharp woody spurs that hurt. Worst of all, it is an invasive plant from East Asia that joins Amur Honeysuckle, Multiflora Rose, Asian Privet, Common Buckthorn, and some other Eurasian invasive plants in infesting open woods and fields in Eastern and Midwestern USA, pushing out better native plants.

Negative coriaceous On Feb 3, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This looks better when seen from a distance than from close up. An untidy shrub, it always seems to have shriveled leaves clinging to its base and lower branches making it look unkempt, and it's grudging about releasing them. It always seems to be dropping debris. It's also spiny.

The flowers are fragrant but not showy, as they're more or less the same color as the foliage. Bloom occurs in May (Boston Z6a), when lots of other fragrant plants are in bloom. An allergy to the pollen is common.

This plant doesn't look much like an olive tree. What it and the true olive have in common is an olive-shaped fruit, a silvery cast to the foliage, and a well-deserved reputation for being a "dirty" tree.

I don't consider it a good plant for the home landscape. It was once planted in masses along highways, until it was found to be destructively invasive to natural habitat. Seed are spread into wild areas through birds taking the fruit.

This is banned in three states and a noxious weed in West Virginia. It's considered invasive throughout the eastern US.

This looks so much like the Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) that I have a hard time telling them apart.

Negative marestache On Sep 23, 2013, marestache from Morehead City, NC wrote:

I planted a variegated Elaeagnus as a shub in my back yard years ago. It grows fast and has interesting leaves and fruit. It reverted back to the solid green leaves over time. I was good about pruning it for the first years... then I let it go. BIG mistake! It grew like a vine up into a tree next to it maybe 15 feet high. When I finally went to prune it back, I found out it has dangerous backward facing thorny sharp spikes. They gripped the tree limbs as I was trying to pull down the long branches and I got some serious puncture wounds, a very painful job. I will never grow this plant again. If you are looking for a mean perimeter growing fence it might work. They grow fast, wide, thick and tall, and have natural defensive thorns. I'm done with it.

Negative greenneck On Sep 23, 2013, greenneck from Paoli, IN wrote:

yes it smells good, but if you care about native ecosystems, do NOT grow this!

Positive zorba45 On Apr 28, 2013, zorba45 from Richfield, OH wrote:

This is a beatifull plant that resembles the true olive tree. In spring it produces many small white flowers with a strong, frangrant scent.In late summer and early fall, thousands of little red berries ripen with a sweet/tangy taste that is a cross between sour cherries and pomegranate. Many birds love the berries--especially wild turkey. This tough, drought resistent shrub also works as a thick privacy screen in full sun to semi shaded areas. It can also be transplanted very easily.

Neutral beagelgarden On Oct 29, 2008, beagelgarden from Defiance, OH wrote:

This is an invasive plant. Please look at the following website:

Positive Sunflower1888 On Oct 13, 2008, Sunflower1888 from Manassas, VA wrote:

After the city removed a rather large dead tree from our side yard I noticed shoots at the base of the stump. Those shoots have grown into an Autumn Olive shrub that is easily 15' tall. I had never seen one of these shrubs and certainly never experienced their intoxicating scent. The perfume fills our block in the springtime.
Only recently did I discover the identity of my shrub. For years I referred to it as The Honey Bush because of the sweet scent. Bees congregate on the shrub when it is in bloom ( late April/early May ). I have never noticed the shrub bearing fruit and there have been no issues with invasiveness. While the shrub has grown to be quite tall it has not multiplied.
I love this shrub for its' fragrance and its' independence. It flourishes when I ignore it :) My only regret is that it doesn't bloom longer. At our home away from home in South Carolina I have discovered the Tea Olive. Very similar scent, not as heady, and it blooms in the fall.

Positive malsprower On Oct 12, 2008, malsprower from Stevens Point, WI wrote:

It is hard to believe that some people say that this plant is unattractive, what is not attractive about it? Even tough it is not supposed to be here, it is a very useful plant. It is very gorgeous especially its unique berries with their silver scales. The foliage is also very beautiful. I would love to add it to a flower bed any day. The berries make good pancake topping or to add tart to a smoothie.

Negative escambiaguy On Mar 16, 2007, escambiaguy from Atmore, AL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I found this shrub to be invading the pine woodlands near my home, displacing native vegetation. It's not very attractive either.

Neutral frostweed On Dec 27, 2006, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Autumn Olive Elaeagnus umbellata is naturalized in Texas and other States and is considered an invasive plant in Texas.

Negative Equilibrium On Aug 17, 2005, Equilibrium wrote:

Autumn Olive was introduced to the US in the 1830's. It's native to Korea, Japan, and China. We used this plant to stabilize and revegetate road banks and also for strip mine reclamation. We also used this plant in our yards to create food and cover for wildlife although we now know better choices were available. We didn't know as much about this plant back then when we subscribed to these practices. Basically, Autumn Olive spreads aggressively and has caused serious ecological damage just as the Russian Olive has done. They fix nitrogen in the soil which disrupts native plant communities that thrive in infertile environments.

This being said, Elaeagnus umbellata is listed on the noxious weed lists of 45 states. Good news is that young seedlings and saplings can be easily pulled by hand after the spring rains come to loosen up the soil. More mature plants are also relatively easy to destroy. I cut them down to about 12" and paint the stump with readily available Round Up concentrate. If the plant suckers up again, it's easy to go back and take another swipe at the stump by taking it down to about 6" and repainting the exposed surface with Round Up concentrate again. Garlon 4 has worked well for me also.

Neutral smiln32 On Apr 17, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This bush also makes a wonderful hedge and wildlife shelter. It is a natural feeding station and nesting place for many songbirds. In autumn, the branches are covered with bright red berries which the birds love.

Positive Hogwaump On Jun 8, 2003, Hogwaump from Rosedale, WV (Zone 7b) wrote:

Easy to transplant, very hardy. The fruit are someaht tart when ripe, but quite edible and useful for jam & wine. The fruit contain about 10 times the lycopene content of tomatoes, and efforts are under way to farm them as a health food. It does spread easily, apparently by seeds carried by birds and other animals who eat the fruit whole, so ranchers don't much care for it. Nitrogen-fixing, thrives in poor soils, alkali and salt tolerant. Seeds collected need to be frozen for a month or more and treated with bird excrement or clorox or muriatic acid to weaken the seed coat.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Jáltipan De Morelos,
Atmore, Alabama
Chandler, Arizona
Oakland, California
San Francisco, California
Dayville, Connecticut
Hampton, Florida
Batavia, Illinois
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Cumberland, Maryland
Valley Lee, Maryland
Brockton, Massachusetts
Sedalia, Missouri
Plymouth, New Hampshire
Piscataway, New Jersey
Dallas, North Carolina
Franklin, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Walnut Cove, North Carolina
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Richfield, Ohio
Tecumseh, Oklahoma
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Memphis, Tennessee
Blacksburg, Virginia
Lexington, Virginia
Manassas, Virginia
Newport News, Virginia
Sterling, Virginia
Wytheville, Virginia
Grantsville, West Virginia
Liberty, West Virginia
Rosedale, West Virginia
Pewaukee, Wisconsin

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