Skaneateles Conservation Area/Invasive species/Elaeagnus umbellata

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<< Prohibited invasive plants at the SCA

Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)[edit | edit source]

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is native to China and Japan. It has become much more apparent at the Skaneateles Conservation Area (SCA) in recent years. Autumn olive can grow up to 20 feet high and form a dense layer. Its leaves have a silvery underside that easily differentiate it from similar native shrubs.[1]

Invasiveness ranking for Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)[edit | edit source]

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) is listed as a very highly invasive shrub in New York State with a relative maximum score of 94%.[1]

Autumn olive is also prohibited by New York State law.[2]

1. Ecological impact (40/40)[edit | edit source]

1.1. Major, possibly irreversible, alteration or disruption of ecosystem processes (10/10)

  • Autumn olive has been shown to affect soil microbial communities even when it is present in relatively low densities.[3]
  • It has root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen, resulting in its potential to degrade native plant communities adapted to low nutrient levels.[4]

1.2. Major alteration of natural community structure (10/10)

  • Increases shrub layer and eradicates all layers below.

1.3. Major alteration of natural community composition (10/10)

  • Completely alters the shrub layer and layers below.[5]

1.4. Severe impact on other species or species groups (10/10)

  • Changes the abundance and composition of native plants.
  • Produces leaves in early spring, prior to most native plants.[5]

2. Biological characteristics and dispersal ability (25/25)[edit | edit source]

2.1. Abundant reproduction with more than 100 viable seeds per plant (4/4)

  • Mature autumn olive shrubs can produce about 30 pounds of fruit annually, which is equivalent to about 3 pounds of seeds 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 in height.[6]
  • Fruit production is reduced by shading.[7]

2.2. Numerous opportunities for long-distance dispersal (4/4)

  • Dispersed mainly by birds and small animals.[6]
  • Dispersal can be more than 100 meters.[8]

2.3. High potential to be spread by human activities (3/3)

  • Until 2015, autumn olive was still legally sold and planted in New York.

2.4. Two or more characteristics that increase competitive advantage (6/6)

  • Perennial habit.
  • Fast growth.
  • Some shade tolerance.
  • Can grow well on a variety of soils, including sandy, loamy, and somewhat clayey textures with a pH range of 4.8 to 6.5.[6]
  • Excellent tolerance to drought..[6]

2.5. Forms a dense layer above shorter vegetation (2/2)

  • Forms large stands.

2.6. Can germinate/regenerate in existing vegetation in a wide range of conditions (3/3)

  • No special conditions are needed for the germination.
  • Widely adapted.

2.7. Other species in the genus invasive in New York or elsewhere (3/3)

  • Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is listed as invasive in New York State
  • Russian olive has not been reported in the direct vicinity of SCA and seems fairly rare in Central New York in general.
  • A population of Russian olives has been observed near Skytop (Syracuse University).[9]

3. Ecological amplitude and distribution (21/25)[edit | edit source]

3.1. Large dense stands present in areas with numerous invasive species already present or disturbed landscapes (2/4)

  • Large density stands have been observed and documented with other non native plants.[8]


The similar Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is not currently present in this area and is generally considered less invasive in New York State.[10]

Autumn olive and Russian olive are very similar in appearance but Russian olive has green, mealy fruit, in contrast to the bright, mottled red fruit of autumn olive. The two species are ecologically similar and require the same control treatment.[11]

4. Difficulty of control (8/10)[edit | edit source]

Apparent signs of rabbits chewing the bark at the base of these shrubs is often present, but this seems to have little effect of the health of these hardy, drought tolerant shrubs.[12]

Plants cut down at ground level regrow quickly from basal branches at ground level and root shoots.[1]

  1. a b New York non-native plant invasiveness assessment – Elaeagnus umbellata: Very high (94). M.J.Jordan, G.Moore & T.W.Weldy (2008). Invasiveness ranking system for non-native plants of New York. Unpublished. The Nature Conservancy, Albany & Cold Spring Harbor, NY; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY.
  2. New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 6 Section 575.3 - Prohibited invasive species
  3. Elizabeth Malinich, Nicole Lynn‐Bell, Peter S. Kourtev (2017). "The effect of the invasive Elaeagnus umbellata on soil microbial communities depends on proximity of soils to plants." Ecosphere 8(5): e01827. 10.1002/ecs2.1827
  4. Michigan Department of Natural Resources (2012). "Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)." Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Invasive Species—Best Control Practices.
  5. a b Gregory T. Munger (2003). Elaeagnus umbellata in Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Acc. 2021, July 22.
  6. a b c d N. Sather, Nancy Eckardt (1987). The Nature Conservancy Element Stewardship Abstract For Elaeagnus umbellata. Updated: TunyaLee Martin, 8/2001.
  7. Gregory T. Munger (2003). Elaeagnus umbellata. In: Fire Effects Information System, (FEIS). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Acc. 7 Jul 2021.
  8. a b Global Invasive Species Database (2021) Species profile: Elaeagnus umbellata. Acc. 24 Jul 2021.
  9. iNaturalist observations near Skytop (Syracuse University)
  10. Flora of New York/Rhamnaceae … Urticaceae. (2021, June 9). Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project.
  11. D.R.Jackson & S.Wurzbacher (2020) "Autumn Olive" Penn State Extension, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.
  12. Personal observation of local natural area volunteers.

Observations of Elaeagnus angustifolia at the SCA[edit | edit source]

The following photographs and corresponding iNaturalist observations of Elaeagnus angustifolia were made at or very near the Skaneateles Conservation Area. Click on images to enlarge and read details on Wikimedia Commons or on the "iNat obs" links to view the corresponding observations at iNaturalist.