Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.
Autumn olive, Japanese silverberry
Autumn olive is a native of China and Japan. It is a good news/bad news plant. It was brought to North America in 1830, and planted widely for wildlife habitat, shelter belts, and mine reclamation. It spread rapidly and has become an invasive. Despite its bad rap as an invasive, it has interesting nutritional and health-related merits, described below.
Identification: A large, fast-growing woody shrub or multiply branched tree, up to 20' (6.1 m) high. Leaves are medium green on top and silvery underneath, with small dots on the underside. Branches have a few thorns. Produces small fragrant yellow flowers. This plant produces enormous numbers of red berries, each about ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm) in diameter. The berries are speckled with brown or silvery spots, and the bottom of each berry is indented. It is found in open sunny woodlands and disturbed areas.
Edibility: Fully ripe berries are tart at first, becoming sweeter, reminiscent of currants, cranberries, and peaches. The berries can be made into jams, jellies, fruit leather, or sauces.
Medical: Autumn olive berries contain large amounts of lycopene, 17 times as much as are in tomatoes, our major dietary source of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant which has
... generated widespread interest as a possible deterrent to heart disease and cancers of the prostate, cervix and gastrointestinal tract.
The berries also contain β-cryptoxanthin, another antioxidant which is converted to vitamin A in the body, and appears to suppress the likelihood of developing lung cancer.
Elaeagnus umbellata on Missouriplants.com
Elaeagnus umbellata on www.carolinanature.com
Elaeagnus umbellata at Illinois Wildflowers
Elaeagnus umbellata on Invasive.org, Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health
Elaeagnus umbellata at the Southest Exotic Pest Plant Council
Elaeagnus umbellata on Discover Life
Elaeagnus umbellata on Plants for a Future
Elaeagnus umbellata on plantdatabase.uconn.edu
Elaeagnus umbellata at the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation
Elaeagnus umbellata on spes.vt.edu
Elaeagnus umbellata on the Plant Conservation Alliance’s Alien Plant Working Group Least Wanted List
Elaeagnus umbellata on the USDA Forest Service's Fire Effects Information Database
Elaeagnus umbellata on hort.purdue.edu
1See this article about autumn olive
2See Wikipedia article on Cryptoxanthin
Elaeagnus umbellata description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 14 Aug 2021.