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SPECIES: Elaeagnus umbellata
Jerry Gibson, Deer Park, AL www.invasive.org
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service www.invasive.org
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Munger, Gregory T. 2003. Elaeagnus umbellata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/elaumb/all.html .
NRCS PLANT CODE :
The currently accepted scientific name for autumn-olive is Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. (Elaeagnaceae) [5,18,19,29,38,46,48,51,57,71,75,77]. Kartesz and Meacham  recognize the variety Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. var. parvifolia (Royle) Schneid.
Several cultivars have been developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Soil Conservation Service, and distributed for wildlife and other conservation uses
(see Importance To Livestock And Wildlife)
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
Autumn-olive is ranked as a "severe threat" (exotic plant species that possess characteristics of invasive species and spread easily into native plant communities and displace native vegetation) by the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council . It is also ranked as a "severe threat" (exotic plant species which possess characteristics of invasive species and spread easily into native plant communities and displace native vegetation; includes species which are or could become widespread in Kentucky) by the Kentucky Exotic Pest Plant Council .
Autumn-olive is listed among the top 10 exotic pest plants in Georgia , and among "highly invasive species" (species that may disrupt ecosystem processes and cause major alterations in plant community composition and structure and that establish readily in natural systems and spread rapidly) by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation . It is listed as a Category II exotic plant species (considered to have the potential to displace native plants either on a localized or widespread scale) by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy of Vermont , and as a noxious weed in several West Virginia counties .
U.S. Forest Service Region 8 (Southern Region) lists autumn-olive as a category 1 weed (exotic plant species that are known to be invasive and persistent throughout all or most of their range within the Southern Region and that can spread into and persist in native plant communities and displace native plant species and therefore pose a demonstrable threat to the integrity of the natural plant communities in the Region). The introduction of Category 1 Species is prohibited on National Forest System Lands .
Northern distribution of invasive autumn-olive populations in North America may be limited by cold intolerance from USDA climate zone 5 north , although one cultivar has been described as "hardy" to zone 6 . Autumn-olive is native to Asia and was introduced to North America around 1830 [5,19,51,57,65,71,77].
The following biogeographic classification systems demonstrate where
autumn-olive could potentially be found based on floras and other literature,
herbarium samples, and confirmed observations. Predicting distribution of
nonnative species is difficult due to gaps in understanding of their biological
and ecological characteristics, and because they may still be expanding their
range. These lists are speculative and may not be accurately restrictive or
FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES38 Plains grasslands
STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
Catling et al.  described the following habitats in southern and eastern Ontario where escaped autumn-olive was found most frequently: deciduous and mixed forests dominated by black oak (Quercus velutina), white oak (Q. alba), eastern white pine (Pinus strobus), and red maple (Acer rubrum); eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) glades; prairie/savanna relicts dominated by indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans); coniferous plantations; seasonally wet, "open floodplain thickets;" gravelly till in northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) floodplain slope woodland; raised sandy knolls in open to sparsely shaded graminoid fens; and low sand dunes in eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) savanna.
Autumn-olive is a many-branched, deciduous shrub or shrubby tree, growing 10 to16 feet (3-5 m) tall [5,14,18,19,46,77]. Leaves are alternate [5,18,19,46,51,57], simple [19,46], and variable in size , ranging from 0.4 to 3 inches (1-8 cm) long and 0.4 to 1.6 inches (1-4 cm) wide [5,46,51]. Thorns several inches in length are formed on spur branches . Autumn-olive fruits are single-seeded drupes, 0.2 to 0.4 inches (4-10 mm) in diameter, produced on pedicels [14,18,19,38,46,51,57].
Autumn-olive forms root nodules induced by symbiosis with actinomycetes in the soil. This symbiosis permits the fixation and subsequent utilization of atmospheric nitrogen [42,61,71].
The biology and ecology of autumn-olive are not well-studied in North
America. More research is needed to better understand autumn-olive's key biological traits,
habitat requirements and limitations, and interactions with native North
American flora and fauna.
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
As of this writing (2003) there is very little published information describing regeneration biology in autumn-olive. Research is needed to determine the precise nature of asexual regeneration, conditions that promote or constrain seedling establishment and early growth, and the role of soil-stored seed in autumn-olive invasiveness.
Breeding system: Elaeagnus spp. are polygamodioecious [5,19,41,74].
Pollination: Autumn-olive is open-pollinated , often by insects .
Seed production: Mature plants can produce about 30 pounds (14 kg) of fruit annually. Thirty pounds of fruit is generally equivalent to about 3 pounds (1.4 kg) of seed, or about 66,000 seeds . Under favorable conditions, autumn-olive can produce fruit by 3 to 5 years of age, usually at about 4 to 8 feet (1.2-2.4 m) in height. Fruit production is reduced by shading .
Seed dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by frugivorous birds and, to a lesser extent, small mammals [11,37,40].
Seed banking: No information
Germination: Autumn-olive seed germination is enhanced by a period of cold stratification. Fowler and Fowler  determined germination rates for unstratified seeds were significantly (p<0.05) lower than those receiving 8 or more weeks of cold stratification at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 °C). Optimal conditions for autumn-olive germination were 16-20 weeks of cold stratification followed by 2 weeks of night/day temperatures of 50/62 degrees Fahrenheit (10/20). These conditions resulted in >90% germination.
However, cold stratification is not a prerequisite for germination. Fowler and Fowler  found 51% of unstratified seeds germinated after 10 weeks of night/day temperatures of 50/62 degrees Fahrenheit (10/20 °C). Jinks and Ciccarese  found that >70% of seeds from their "control" group germinated after 8 weeks despite receiving no cold temperature treatment.
Seedling establishment/growth: No information
Solecki  and Szafoni  indicated burned, mowed, and cut plants "resprout vigorously." The
Invasive Plant Atlas of New England website  reports that if autumn
olive is cut, "it resprouts abundantly," and burning only results in resprouting "from the
stump." Russian-olive (E. angustifolia), another introduced
and invasive Elaeagnus in North America, sprouts from the root crown and
sends up root suckers (see FEIS botanical and ecological summary for
Autumn-olive has been planted throughout much of eastern North America for various purposes (Management Considerations), and has subsequently escaped into a variety of natural and seminatural habitats [4,10,40,71]. For example, Invasive Plant Atlas of New England  lists the following general habitats where autumn-olive may be found in New England: abandoned field, abandoned gravel pit, early-successional forest, edge, pasture, planted forest, railroad right-of-way, roadside, utility right-of-way, vacant lot, yard, or garden. It is probably most prolific on disturbed or ruderal sites [5,8,26,40,77].
Autumn-olive grows best on deep, relatively coarse-textured soils that are
moderately-well to well drained [1,65]. It does less well on very dry soil and usually fails on very
shallow, poorly drained, or excessively wet soil. Autumn-olive does not require
highly fertile soil, and it appears to thrive equally well on soils ranging from
"moderately acid to moderately alkaline" . In
Ontario, escaped autumn-olive is found in a variety of dry to mesic sandy,
forested and open to sparsely shaded habitats, with soil pH from 5-7. It is most
invasive in areas of dry sandy soils. Although it has been cultivated on
fine-textured, periodically wet soils, it is generally not invasive on such
sites in southern Ontario .
Autumn-olive appears best adapted to early-successional habitats in North America. It has been called "moderately" shade tolerant , but is thought to be generally absent from areas with very low light intensity, such as under a dense forest canopy . Edgin and Ebinger  noted autumn-olive plants were restricted to "open canopy areas" within the interior of an "old-growth" forest along the Wabash River in southwestern Indiana. Based on this observation, they suggested autumn-olive is "not well adapted to low-light conditions."
The possibility of autumn-olive invasion in forested habitats should not be precluded on the basis of successional status. Ebinger and Lehnen  describe the following habitats in east-central Illinois where autumn-olive has invaded from nearby plantings: 1) a small plantation of pines (Pinus spp.), 3.3 to 6.6 feet (1-2 m) tall; 2) small ravines in the "early tree stage of succession," containing "scattered individuals" of black walnut (Juglans nigra), prairie crabapple (Malus ioensis), shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria), northern red oak (Q. rubra), black cherry (Prunus serotina), and American elm (Ulmus americana), mostly less than 4 inches (10 cm) dbh; 3) a grazed upland forest dominated by white oak, mostly between 12 and 20 inches (30-50 cm) dbh. Data from sample plots (see table below) indicate autumn-olive stems were numerous within these sites, with a substantial proportion of plants greater than 20 inches (50 cm) tall. While it is difficult to draw firm conclusions from these and previous site descriptions without more detailed information, it appears autumn-olive has at least some ability to establish under a forest canopy.
|Habitat||autumn-olive density (stems/ha)||proportion autumn-olive plants >20 inches tall|
|oak (Quercus spp.) forest||67,925||7%|
|Northeastern U.S. ||X||X|
|New England ||X||X|
|Blue Ridge Mountains ||X||X|
|West Virginia ||X||X|
|North & South Carolina ||X||X|
In the central and southern Appalachian regions, autumn-olive fruit ripens in August and September [46,57]. Fruit generally remains on the plant until late winter . Autumn-olive generally produces leaves in early spring, prior to most native plants [55,59].
Fire adaptations: As of this writing (2003) there is no published information describing adaptations of autumn-olive to fire. It is likely, though speculative, that autumn-olive generally responds to fire damage by sprouting (see Asexual regeneration). Russian-olive (E. angustifolia), another introduced and invasive Elaeagnus in North America, sprouts from the root crown following fire (see FEIS botanical and ecological summary for Russian-olive).
Fire regimes: The following table lists fire return intervals for communities or ecosystems throughout North America where autumn-olive may occur. This list is presented as a guideline to illustrate historic fire regimes and is not to be interpreted as a strict description of fire regimes for autumn-olive. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|silver maple-American elm||A. saccharinum-Ulmus americana||< 35 to 200|
|sugar maple||A. saccharum||> 1,000|
|sugar maple-basswood||A. saccharum-Tilia americana||> 1,000 |
|bluestem prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||< 10 [33,43]|
|Nebraska sandhills prairie||A. gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium||< 10|
|bluestem-Sacahuista prairie||A. littoralis-Spartina spartinae||< 10 |
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||< 35|
|blue grama-buffalo grass||B. gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides||< 35 [43,76]|
|sugarberry-America elm-green ash||Celtis laevigata-Ulmus americana-Fraxinus pennsylvanica||< 35 to 200|
|Atlantic white-cedar||Chamaecyparis thyoides||35 to > 200 |
|northern cordgrass prairie||Distichlis spicata-Spartina spp.||1-3 |
|beech-sugar maple||Fagus spp.-Acer saccharum||> 1,000|
|black ash||Fraxinus nigra||< 35 to 200 |
|cedar glades||Juniperus virginiana||3-7 |
|yellow-poplar||Liriodendron tulipifera||< 35 |
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||< 5-47+ [43,45,76]|
|Great Lakes spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35 to > 200|
|northeastern spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35-200 |
|southeastern spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35 to > 200 |
|red spruce*||P. rubens||35-200|
|jack pine||Pinus banksiana||<35 to 200 |
|shortleaf pine||P. echinata||2-15|
|shortleaf pine-oak||P. echinata-Quercus spp.||< 10|
|slash pine||P. elliottii||3-8|
|slash pine-hardwood||P. elliottii-variable||< 35|
|sand pine||P. elliottii var. elliottii||25-45 |
|longleaf-slash pine||P. palustris-P. elliottii||1-4 [39,72]|
|longleaf pine-scrub oak||P. palustris-Quercus spp.||6-10|
|Table Mountain pine||P. pungens||< 35 to 200 |
|red pine (Great Lakes region)||P. resinosa||10-200 (10**) [7,15]|
|red-white-jack pine*||P. resinosa-P. strobus-P. banksiana||10-300 [7,21]|
|pitch pine||P. rigida||6-25 [3,22]|
|eastern white pine||P. strobus||35-200|
|eastern white pine-eastern hemlock||P. strobus-Tsuga canadensis||35-200|
|eastern white pine-northern red oak-red maple||P. strobus-Q. rubra-Acer rubrum||35-200|
|loblolly pine||P. taeda||3-8|
|loblolly-shortleaf pine||P. taeda-P. echinata||10 to < 35|
|Virginia pine||P. virginiana||10 to < 35|
|Virginia pine-oak||P. virginiana-Quercus spp.||10 to < 35|
|sycamore-sweetgum-American elm||Platanus occidentalis-Liquidambar styraciflua-U. americana||< 35 to 200 |
|eastern cottonwood||Populus deltoides||< 35 to 200 |
|aspen-birch||P. tremuloides-Betula papyrifera||35-200 [7,72]|
|black cherry-sugar maple||Prunus serotina-A. saccharum||> 1,000|
|oak-hickory||Quercus-Carya spp.||< 35|
|northeastern oak-pine||Quercus-Pinus spp.||10 to < 35|
|southeastern oak-pine||Quercus-Pinus spp.||< 10|
|white oak-black oak-northern red oak||Q. alba-Q. velutina-Q. rubra||< 35|
|northern pin oak||Q. ellipsoidalis||< 35|
|bear oak||Q. ilicifolia||< 35|
|bur oak||Q. macrocarpa||< 10 |
|oak savanna||Q. macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||2-14 [43,72]|
|chestnut oak||Q. prinus||3-8|
|northern red oak||Q. rubra||10 to < 35|
|post oak-blackjack oak||Q. stellata-Q. marilandica||< 10|
|black oak||Q. velutina||< 35|
|live oak||Q. virginiana||10 to< 100 |
|cabbage palmetto-slash pine||Sabal palmetto-P. elliottii||< 10 [39,72]|
|little bluestem-grama prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp.||< 35 |
|eastern hemlock-yellow birch||T. canadensis-Betula alleghaniensis||> 200 |
|elm-ash-cottonwood||Ulmus-Fraxinus-Populus spp.||< 35 to 200 [7,72]|
It appears that autumn-olive will sprout in response to damage from fire, indicating a single burn is probably not sufficient to eradicate it [37,53,59]. It is unclear how effective multiple prescribed burns might be for controlling invasive autumn-olive. While a single fire is unlikely to eradicate autumn-olive, periodic burning might control its spread and eventually reduce its presence. Any management activity that removes aboveground tissue, prevents seed production, and depletes energy reserves is likely to reduce autumn-olive invasiveness, especially when conducted persistently.
Postfire colonization via nearby seed sources seems likely (see Seed dispersal), provided there is enough light for seedling establishment in the postfire environment. However, more information is needed describing seedbed requirements for autumn-olive seed germination and seedling establishment.
Apart from questions about effectiveness of prescribed fire as an autumn-olive control measure, use of fire in areas where autumn-olive is present may or may not be appropriate, depending on management goals and the particular ecosystem involved. Using fire to control autumn-olive in habitats where fire is infrequent may do substantial damage to fire-intolerant native species. Conversely, fire may be appropriate where management goals include maintaining native seral species or otherwise enhancing ecosystem structure and function through use of prescribed fire. For more information regarding fire effects on native flora, see the appropriate FEIS species summaries on this website.
Palatability/nutritional value: No information
Autumn-olive provides cover for wildlife, especially songbirds, game birds, and rabbits .
Autumn-olive has been promoted for reclamation of mine spoils and other disturbed soils [1,13]. It has been planted for reclamation of surface coal mine sites because it is tolerant of low pH soil conditions often found on these sites [14,23,68]. It has also been suggested for use in stabilizing eroded soils in exposed coastal areas due to its salt spray tolerance . An additional benefit to planting autumn-olive in these and other situations, where reclamation of disturbed and frequently nutrient-poor soils is an important objective, is its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen [13,60].
Autumn-olive has been a recommended species for planting as a tall shrub component in windbreaks in the Great Plains, in part due to its wildlife food and cover value [20,65].
Autumn-olive is used in plantations for companion planting with black walnut to
enhance black walnut productivity. It is thought autumn-olive enhances black
walnut growth by increasing ecosystem nitrogen pools through
and by decreasing herbaceous competition
[44,49,50,61,69]. Field experiments have demonstrated that interplanting
autumn-olive with black walnut can increase seasonal soil nitrogen
mineralization rates , significantly (p < 0.01) increase black walnut leaf
nitrogen concentration , and substantially improve black walnut growth and
yield [6,42,44,44,70], compared with growing black walnut alone. Interplanting autumn-olive
may also indirectly enhance black walnut growth and yield by reducing incidence of leaf
fungal diseases through interactions with fungivorous microarthropods in the litter layer [31,32].
White ash (Fraxinus americana) growth and yield also increases when interplanted
with autumn olive .
IMPACTS AND CONTROL:
Impacts: In general, invasive autumn-olive impacts native biotic communities in eastern North America by displacing native plants. Invasive populations can supplant native habitat, sometimes forming dense thickets. Prodigious seed production and widespread seed dispersal by frugivorous birds probably contribute to its invasiveness . An Illinois study reported autumn-olive concentrations of 5,225 stems per hectare in a pine plantation, 27,500 stems per hectare in a grazed upland woods, and 33,975 stems per hectare in hardwood-dominated ravines . Autumn-olive densities of 125,000 plants hectare were recorded in the understory of a yellow-poplar-sweetgum plantation in southwestern Indiana in 2000. This population was established from nearby plantings in the early 1970's. Although 90% of these individuals were 2 feet (0.6 m) or less in height, they formed "a nearly impenetrable thicket" and were "commonly the only understory species present" .
Nestleroad and others  have suggested that impacts of invasive autumn-olive may be greatest in communities adapted to infertile soils, where its nitrogen-fixing capabilities might confer substantial competitive advantage against native species. It is conceivable that autumn-olive could alter the nitrogen cycle in "infertility-dependent" natural communities, shifting the potential native community on these sites. Nestleroad and others  expressed concern that natural communities of sandy, infertile habitats in southern and eastern Ontario, and throughout the Great Lakes region, are already seriously impacted by other pressures.
Control: Controlling invasive autumn-olive may require frequent monitoring and repeated treatments to achieve success. Because seeds can be dispersed long distances by birds, it is helpful to eradicate autumn-olive populations in areas surrounding the threatened area, when possible. If the infested area is large, or if eradication of surrounding populations is not feasible, land managers may wish to focus control efforts in the most ecologically significant and/or least invaded areas first. In closed-canopy forests, control can likely be achieved through routine monitoring and eradication of new individuals by hand pulling or spot-spraying with herbicide .
Prevention: Where appropriate, maintaining dense, frequently mowed grass or other dense native vegetation can help prevent establishment of autumn-olive seedlings .
Integrated management: No information
Physical/mechanical: Hand pulling young seedlings and sprouts can be effective, particularly from moist soil [53,59]. Seedlings are easiest to identify in early spring because autumn-olive produces leaves earlier than most native shrubs [55,59]. Mowed or cut plants reportedly "resprout vigorously" [53,59], so these methods alone will probably not effectively control mature plants. Even repeated cutting is apparently ineffective without treating stumps and/or resprouts with herbicide . Treating cut surfaces with glyphosate is an effective control measure and can minimize negative impacts on native vegetation when carefully applied (see Chemical control) [53,59].
Fire: See Fire Management Considerations.
Biological: No information
Chemical: Several herbicides have been used alone or in combination to provide effective control of autumn-olive, including glyphosate, triclopyr, 2,4-D, and dicamba. This is not intended as an exhaustive review of chemical control methods. For more information regarding appropriate use of herbicides against invasive plant species in natural areas, see The Nature Conservancy's Weed control methods handbook. For more information specific to herbicide use against autumn-olive, see The Nature Conservancy's Element Stewardship abstract of autumn-olive and the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) and Illinois Nature Preserves Commission websites.
Dicamba and 2,4-D have been used as a foliar application to effectively control autumn-olive [35,53,59]. Triclopyr has also been used effectively on resprouts following cutting . Because this method is conducted during the growing season, and because 100% coverage of foliage is recommended for most effective control, Szafoni  suggests that foliar application is best suited to shorter plants.
For larger plants, basal-bark application of triclopyr or 2,4-D can control invasive autumn-olive [11,35,53]. Basal-bark treatment is the application of herbicide solution directly to the bark the lower portion of woody plants. Herbicide then penetrates the bark and is absorbed by the plant . Rather than a broad band application, a thin line of herbicide applied around the entire circumference of the stem 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) above the ground is sufficient, and less likely to harm nearby, desirable plants [53,59].
Direct application of glyphosate to cut stumps can also be effective, particularly late in the growing season (July-September) [53,59]. According to Szafoni , reduced application rates of 10-20% solution (compared with 50-100% recommended on some glyphosate product labels) are sufficient for effective treatment of cut stems. Careful application of herbicide directly to target plants can reduce damage to nearby, desirable vegetation .
Multiple herbicide treatments may be required to completely kill all plants. Edgin and Ebinger  describe treating an invasive population of autumn-olive in Illinois with basal-bark applications of triclopyr during springs of 1996 and 1997. A subsequent search in early summer 1997 yielded no evidence of live autumn-olive in treated areas. But by 2000, autumn-olive had re-established within these same treated areas. Because a dense population of well-established autumn-olive remained in an area adjacent to treatment plots, many of the newly established plants were assumed to have originated from the seed bank or from seeds transported into the plots by birds after herbicide treatments. But nearly 11% of the larger stems (2.6 to 4.9 feet (80-150 cm) tall) had an "enlarged basal caudex" and were considered to be resprouts that were only top-killed by the herbicide treatment.
Cultural: No information
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