Autumn Olive
Elaeagnus umbellataElaeagnaceae
Whole Plant
Whole Plant
Whole PlantWhole PlantFlowerFruit
Photos (c) Cheryl Comeau Beaton unless otherwise noted


  • Oleaster

The Plant:

  • A deciduous shrub reaching 12 to 20 feet tall.

The Leaves:

  • entire
  • alternate
  • (2.5 to 7.5 cm long)
  • oval to somewhat lanceolate
  • dark green and glabrescent above
  • silver-white scaled below

The Stem:

  • young branches silvery and scaly maturing to darker brown
  • possibly thorny.

The Flowers:

  • Small, tubular, light yellow flowers with four petals. They are extremely fragrant. Blooms from May to June.

The Fruits:

  • small (0.25 inch)
  • numerous
  • fleshy and juicy
  • round
  • reddish to pink
  • dotted with silvery scales
  • a golden-fruited cultivar is also naturalized

The Habitat:

  • disturbed areas
  • fields, roadsides, pastures and clearings
  • tolerates poor soils due to its nitrogen-fixing root nodules


  • birds and small mammals spread the seeds

Key ID Features:

  • shrub
  • alternate
  • silver-white scaled below
  • fleshy fruit
  • branches silvery and scaly
  • light yellow flowers
  • fragrant

Similar Species:

  • Russian Olive (E. angustifolia) and Autumn Olive (E. umbellata) look very similar, even to the trained eye.
  • Russian Olive has linear, narrow leaves, with the upper leaf surface sparsely silver and lower surface densely silver. Autumn Olive has an elliptical shape with an upper leaf surface that is rarely silver and a lower surface sparsely silver with brown scales. Autumn Olive flowers are cream to pale yellow, and its fruits are juicy and red or sometimes orange to gold. Russian Olive flowers are brighter yellow and its fruits are larger, dry and yellow with silvery scales.


  • The nitrogen fixing abilities can effect native species which are adapted to infertile soils. Due to its heavy fruiting, rapid growth, tolerance of poor soils, and seed dispersal by birds, these shrubs can out-compete native species.

Growth Form: Shrub

Origin: Japan, China, Korea

Level of Invasiveness for Nantucket: Invasive

Level of Invasiveness for Massachusetts: Invasive

Massachusetts Cultivation Restrictions: importation ban, propagation ban

Credits: The Electronic Field Guide to the Invasive Plants of Nantucket (c) 2005-2006 Maria Mitchell Association, EFG Project, UMass Boston