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This deciduous shrub can reach a height of 30 feet. Its elongated leaves alternate along the stem and easily can be identified by their dark-green top and shiny silver underside. Stems are covered with whitish-colored dots called “lenticels” and may have scattered thorns. Small, aromatic, yellow flowers appear once the plant has reached three years of age. The edible oval-shaped berries are red in color with golden speckles throughout.

Originally from eastern Asia, the autumn olive was introduced into the United States in 1830 for use as an ornamental shrub and was planted in gamelands for wildlife habitat. It grows well in disturbed areas, open fields, next to forests, roadsides, and clearings. Each plant produces 20,000 to 54,000 seeds per year, which are dispersed by birds and mammals who consume the berries. This shrub also can reproduce through its root system.

Autumn olive can displace native plant species, create dense shade and interfere with nutrient cycling. There also is thought that it keeps migrating birds in an area longer because of its late fruiting season, but its seeds do not provide birds with the proper nutrition. Young plants can be hand-pulled as long as all roots are removed. Cutting, in combination with herbicide application, is effective.
More Resources:

Plant Invaders in Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas
Element Stewardship Abstract
Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Manual


Non-Native Invasive Plants Field Guide
U.S. Forest Service
Discover Life


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