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Autumn Olive (Elaegnus umbellata)

Habitat Management Suggestions for Selected Wildlife Species
 By R.J. Mackie, R.F. Batchelor, M.E. Majerus, J.P. Weigand, and V.P. Sundberg


Autumn olive is an open-growing, deciduous shrub, often reaching 10 to 15 feet in height. It was introduced from China or Japan. The main trunk and older branches are dark brown. The smaller limbs and twigs are yellowish brown and somewhat spiny. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches long with wavy edges, slender to oblong in shape, and arranged alternately on the twigs and branches. The top sides of the leaves are green with silvery scales, while the bottom sides are silvery with brown scales. Small, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers develop to bloom in June. The plants usually yield an abundant crop of red, speckled berries. "Cardinal" is a released variety available on the commercial market.


This species grows best on sandy, loamy to moderately heavy clayey, well drained, moist soils. Plant performance is reduced on dry soils. Plant tolerance to moderately alkaline and acid soil conditions is good. The plants are not adapted to poorly drained, dense, fine textured, or shallow soils.


The planting stock should be one or two years old, without being transplanted before, and at least 10 inches tall. The plants should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart to assure abundant annual berry crops for wildlife food.

Management and Care:

Autumn olive is sometimes heavily browsed by deer and rabbits, and may require protection until they become well established. Diseases are not a problem; however, grasshoppers can do considerable damage, requiring control with an appropriate insecticide.


Food production provided by the berries is the major contribution of autumn olive to wildlife. More than 25 species of birds are known to eat the fruit. Pheasants and ruffed grouse, for example, find the berries highly attractive food as do several small birds. Songbirds also make use of the plants for nesting and cover.


Food production provided by the berries is the major contribution of autumn olive to wildlife.


Four wing saltbush

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