Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Autumn Olive - Elaeagnus umbellata   Thunberg
Members of Elaeagnus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Rhamnales » Family Elaeagnaceae
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DistributionPrimarily in the Mountains and Piedmont; rare in the outer Coastal Plain (Craven and Dare counties). Increasing, and will be found in many more counties. First collected near Pittsboro in Chatham County in 1929 by William Coker; Mecklenburg County in 1936; and Wake County in 1938.

Native of China and Japan; in N.A. -- N.B. to Ont., MN, and NE, south to FL, LA, OK, and CO; MT, OR, WA.
AbundanceCommon to locally abundant in the Piedmont and southern Mountains; uncommon in the northern Mountains; rare in the Coastal Plain. Actively spreading in the state, aided by birds "pooping" the seeds. It is a major invasive species in many forested habitats in the Piedmont and southern mountains, ruining many a former high-quality natural area.
HabitatThickets, roadsides, disturbed woodlands, creek banks, lake shores, maritime forests, pastures. It can quickly invade forest interiors with some disturbance; Hurricane Fran, in 1996, created large openings in many forests in the eastern Piedmont, and this species quickly invaded many of these forests.
PhenologyFlowering April-May; fruiting August-September. The usual common name is a bit of a misnomer or poor one, as the "Autumn" refers to the fruit and fruiting period (when all 3 of our Elaeagnus species are in fruit).
IdentificationGenerally a medium-sized shrub (head-high). Leaves are elliptical and a pale green or grayish green color above, covered with silvery and bronzy scales beneath. Flowers have narrow tubes and 4 widely spreading pointed lobes, straw color to whitish and lightly speckled with bronzy spots outside; with a strong fragrance. Berries are bright red.
Taxonomic Comments
Other Common Name(s)Japanese Silverberry, Autumn Elaeagnus
State RankSE
Global RankGNR
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieWoods off US 15-501, just S of Little River, April 2018. MoorePhoto_non_natural
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