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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 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."


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


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 thoughts on “Seed of the Week: Autumn Olive

  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!

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