Seed of the Week: Autumn Olive

Our mystery seed last week was from an autumn olive, Elaeagnus umbellata.

autumn-olive-leaves-222-betterAutumn olives are deciduous perennial shrubs that were planted extensively throughout eastern North America as windbreaks and food for wildlife. The ripe fruit are edible and a favorite with birds.

autumn-olive-plant

Autumn olive is originally from Asia. Some states now list the plant as invasive, because it can aggressively take over and drive out native plants.

autumn-olive-fruit=good-1On the other hand, there has been some interest in developing the fruit as a crop. Selective breeding has lead to commercial varieties. Some are called “autumnberry,” a more palatable name than “olive.”

autumn-olive-underside-leaves

The name olive probably comes from the silvery underside of the leaves which makes them resemble gray-green olive trees.

mystery-seed-224-1

By the way, I was referring to the common name olive when I gave the hint about pits last week.

autumn-olive-seeds-hurst(Photograph by Steve Hurst, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

The seeds may not look like pits, but they do have interesting ridges.

autumn-olive-flowers-garland(Photograph by Mark A. Garland, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database)

The flowers form cream-colored bundles in the early spring. The fruit ripens in the fall.

What has your experience been with autumn olive? Have you ever tried the fruit?

2 Comments

  1. sara

    Wow! I see autumn olive nearly every day and have taken tons of pictures of the berries but never thought to open one up and look inside. Cool!

  2. Roberta

    Sara,

    Aren’t those ridges interesting?

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