Autumn Olive Management Strategy

Historical Profile

            Similar species to the Autumn Olive are the Russian Olive, Buffalo Berry, and Bush Honeysuckle. Based on early reports of the species it was brought over to North America/United States by early settlers in the 1830’s as a source of food, medicine, wildlife habitat, ornamental use, and windbreaks. Autumn Olive is found from Maine to Virginia and as far west as Wisconsin. Due to its atmospheric nitrogen fixation through its roots and high success rate in low nutrient soils it was specifically used on sandy slopes of bridges and roadways to prevent soil erosion. The Autumn Olive is also known as the Autumn Berry because of the berries it produces turning into berries with silver specs when ripe. Aki-Gumi as it’s known in Japan translates to the Autumn silver berry, it grows to 20 feet tall in north America however it can grow to 30 feet tall in parts that it originated from like Japan, India and other Parts of the Himalayas. Due to the hardiness and rapid reproduction rate the species quickly began spreading uncontrollably, the plant was listed as invasive within Ontario and efforts to reduce population size have failed (Sternberg & West, 2017).



Elaeagnus umbellata also known as the autumn olive is a deciduous shrub that originates from East Asia, specifically spanning from the Himalayas to Japan (Walker, 2012). The plant was purposely introduced to North America and Australia but soon after fell into the noxious or invasive species categories depending on state and province. In Canada, autumn olive is only listed as invasive within Ontario (, 2007).


Habitat: The Autumn Olive is both extremely resilient and resistant to a wide range of growing conditions and can establish itself in meadows, pastures, forest edges, sparse forests, road sides and previously disturbed areas (, 2007). The plant grows best in well drained sandy soils but can also survive a wide range of soil and moisture conditions (Global invasive species database, 2005).  Autumn olive plants do well up to plant hardiness zone 3 but can tolerate slightly cooler growing spaces. The Autumn Olive is a moderately shade tolerant species which allows it to survive as an understory plant though full sun is ideal. The possibility of it spreading over to the west is an issue due to the autumn olives preference of open grasslands. They are denser in areas of less canopy cover which has been found as a good way to help regulate them along roadsides.


Figure 1: Global distribution of the Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellate. It originated in Asia but in 1830 it was transported to the United states where it then spread up into Ontario. (Base map-


Figure 1: This map shows the areas around the world where autumn olive is located.


Figure 2:  Map of ideal growing areas in  Ontario for Autumn Olive


Reproductive Strategy: The autumn olive can produce up to 200,000 seeds every year through small edible berries (Walker, B 2012). They normally bear fruit during September-October and once the seeds are dispersed, the plant will take between two to six years to begin reproducing. Their mass offspring production and rapid growth rate classifies them as an r-strategist species The Autumn olive is pollinated through insects since their male and female counterparts are separate.


Table 1:  In this table it will show the Autumn Olive’s characteristics compared to that of k and r-strategist. From it you can see it is somewhat in between but more of r-strategist in terms of adaptability with reproduction.

Characteristic r-strategist k-strategist Autumn Olive
Mortality Variable and unpredictable More often constant and predictable Constant
Lifespan Short Long Long roughly 30-40 years
Seedlings produced large Small Large quantity of fruit bared each year
Parental care Very little to none Necessity None
Frequency of reproduction Once or more within a small timeframe Will reproduce on multiple occasions but over a prolonged period of time Will reproduce after 3 year growing period then annually every September-October
Additional factors Generally mature individuals have success in reproduction Mature individuals sometimes will reproduce successfully Even if they are cut or burned they will grow back vigorously allowing them to continue reproducing

Survivorship: The Autumn Olive has a high survival rate in the locations that it grows. It is very tolerant to multiple soil conditions and is even moderately shade tolerant allowing it to grow in understory if necessary. They have a Type 1 survivorship curve since they are able to survive through early to midlife but do not survive to old age. Their ability to die off is more linked towards their age rather than their surroundings since if they are damaged they grow back immensely. Autumn Olive does not care for their young and produce a lot of offspring but have a very low mortality rate during the early to midway point of their life. They produce tens of thousands of offspring that have low mortality rates of 10%-30% based off conditions around them.


Dispersal/ Vectors: The Autumn Olive has become a quickly spreading pest because of its multiple methods or reproduction. The plants produce roughly 200,000 seeds encased in small edible berries every year which are dispersed through birds, mammals and seed droppings. Along with the plant’s rapid seed dispersal rate, severed branches can also grow roots and become new plants. It has quickly spread across North America due to its rapid dispersal strategies.  


Special Considerations: The Autumn Olive can reproduce from forest fires which makes it very hard to control. Forest fires are used to help regulate forest growth and help certain species reproduce but this species will not die but thrive from it making it very sustainable. Most natural ways to control the autumn olive are ineffective when managing the species leading human interference to be required in order to reduce the infestation.

The fruit of the Autumn Olive also contains extremely powerful antioxidant properties including 40-70g of lycopene per 100g serving making it one of the world’s most powerful antioxidants. The berries can be used for a wide range of recipes including jams, fruit lathers and wines.


Critical Assessment and Management Options:

        Autumn Olive has been taking over the majority of the landscapes that it has been planted in since their introduction. The ability to predict when and where this species will become a problem would allow management to more effectively prioritize control efforts and implement the most efficient management practices available (Matthew R. Moore 2013). With regards to the control of this plant there are 3 options available. The options consist of, chemical control, removal control, shade control. These methods will be explained in the following paragraphs.

        Options such as chemical removal, is a very costly method of controlling the plants along with harmful to the area around the plants. The chemicals would be applied to the tree in order to kill it without it being able to repopulate during the process. This method would be very effective on killing the tree but it could have some adverse affects on the surrounding wildlife. Since a variety of animals and birds consume the berries it is possible that they could ingest the poison if it were to get on the berries. In order to prevent occurrences like that the chemical removal method would have to be done in the spring and summer seasons before berries grow in through the fall and persist through winter. Otherwise the chemicals could end up harming the wildlife around the tree. Along with that the price of the chemicals is not cheap, since the chemicals being used for the removal.  The plant can be cut with a chainsaw, hand saw, or brush mower. A formulation of glyphosate, in a 20-50 percent solution, is then applied immediately to the cut stump surface by using a low pressure hand held sprayer. This type of treatment has proved effective in killing the root system and preventing resprouting when applied late in the growing season (Jackson, 2017). This method is much safer for the species around the plant if done this way since there is lower risk of contact with the chemicals.

        Another possible way to remove the plant is through uprooting it physically. Doing so would have to be done in different ways depending on the size of the tree. The size of the tree would dictate if you would need larger instruments to pull/dig it up from the ground as well as if it needs to be chopped down first before so. For instance if it was around 7ft tall it would be better to level it down first with a chainsaw before the initial uprooting of the tree itself. The tree could not just be cut down since it will splinter outward with shoots to rapidly to replace what it had lost. That is why the roots must be dealt with if you are not using chemicals as a form of removal. The cost of this will depend on the sizes of the trees themselves as stated before equipment and labour wise. Knowing that it would not be as expensive as the chemical process itself, but it is definitely more lengthy and harder to do. This method is one that is not as effective for that reason but the full removal of it ensures that there will be nothing left to grow.

        The last way to control Autumn Olive is through shade. Though this process does not directly remove the tree itself it has been tested to reduce the spread of the trees. Making them stay in close quarters of one another. Sites where autumn olive was present were found most often on primary roads with an average road canopy closure of about 50%. Autumn olive was encountered least on secondary and tertiary roads and where road canopy closure averaged 65%. (Moore, 2013). After some experiments it was found that Autumn Olive spread less in areas where there was canopy cover compared to open space. They predominantly grew around 5-10m away from the mother tree than that of open areas. Though the species still will spread it will be more contained and managed better under shade compared to that of direct sunlight. After two growing seasons, 61% of the forest understory contained AO, an increase of 26%. (Dornbos, 2016). Though numbers escalated during tests on the difference in growth rate the overall number was less than half of what was found in an open environment. Therefore this method is one that does not directly help to remove the Autumn Olive, but rather slow down their reproduction rates.




Critical Assessment:

There are many management strategies used in the past to reduce autumn olive populations. Likely the least effective strategy for reducing the species is by cutting the plants. This strategy is counterproductive due to the plants ability to grow roots from severed branches and regrow from a stump (Black, 2007). The most effective management method to date is cutting the tree and applying herbicide to the cut area (Global invasive species database, 2005). The only setbacks with this method is the cost of herbicides and the potential dangers of working with harmful chemicals in the environment. Any attempts to eradicate the plants through prescribed burning is proven futile because the autumn olive is a nitrogen fixing plant which often results in it being amongst the first species to reestablish after a fire has occurred (Global invasive species database, 2005). Though pulling out plants that are less than two years old can be effective when done correctly, it is not a long-term solution to the autumn olives colonization. This is because it is impractical to attempt to remove full grown 20-30 foot tall plants and the young plants will regrow if any roots are left intact. Lastly, If the autumn olive is left alone with no management it is likely they will spread into Western provinces though it may be beneficial to allow the plants to grow in disturbed areas to help balance nitrogen levels. .  The plant can be cut with a chainsaw, handsaw, or brush mower. These cuttings will be removed by putting the larger sections though a wood chipper, the chips stored for use in the future. Plot data indicate that treatments of both stump/ glyphosate and basal bark/Garlon 4 result in very high kill rates. Plants that survive these treatments generally exhibit malformed regrowth or partial top kill; typically this was not observed (Delanoy, 2007). This same treatment was used on buckthorn and has proven to have a very high mortality rate among the plants it was performed on. A formulation of glyphosate, in a 20-50 percent solution, is then applied immediately to the cut stump surface by using a low-pressure hand held sprayer. This type of treatment has proved effective in killing the root system and preventing re-sprouting when applied late in the growing season (Jackson, 2017). This method is much safer for the species around the plant if done this way since there is lower risk of contact with the chemicals.


Table 2: In this table you can see the different management options with the factors that are involved in each of them.


Management Strategy:
In this plan, there will be information regarding the process and maintenance that will be required for the management of the Autumn Olive. The plan that will be used will be cutting the tree down to a stump and following up with an application of herbicides to the stump. Chemical control is the most effective method for controlling autumn olive. Numerous techniques exist for applying herbicides. But, the cut stump treatment is probably the most effective method (Jackson, 2017). Regarding the herbicides being used for this process a series of Class 9 pesticides will be used in non-homeowner areas since those are not permitted for cosmetic use unless certain actions are performed. Autumn Olive is a very resilient plant that can survive in very harsh and nice conditions making it a hard foe to manage if done improperly. With the use of this management strategy this plant should be able to be removed effectively. These methods have been proven effective with the use of these herbicides can provide total kill with little or no regrowth the following year (Missouri Department of Conservation). With their resistance to simply cutting them down along with burning them more powerful methods must be considered when managing the Autumn Olive.


The Process of Killing the Autumn Olive:

To start the process obtaining all the pesticides and equipment needed for the killing/stunting of the Autumn Olive’s growth. After performing the cutting and spraying of the herbicides the autumn olive will either be killed then or at the very least have their growth slowed down exponentially. The first process would be cutting down the tree, this can be done with a handsaw or chainsaw depending on the equipment available. A formulation of glyphosate, in a 20-50 percent solution, is then applied immediately to the cut stump surface by using a low-pressure hand held sprayer (David R. Jackson 2017). Glyphosate can be applied to the stump but there are also other options such as dicamba or 2,4-d. The overall process is proven to be more effective during July-August before they bear fruit. While applying the herbicides to the cut stump care is taken so that surrounding vegetation is not affected by them. After the application is done there is not much to do besides monitor the area after to check if the process worked effectively or not and reapply techniques if necessary.



Black, B ‘Autumn Olive, Weed or new Cash Crop?’  (2007) Retrieved from:


Corace, I. G., Leister, K. P., & Brosnan, E. (2008). Efficacy of Different Glyphosate Concentrations in Managing Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) Resprouts (Michigan). Ecological Restoration, 26(2), 111-113.


David R. Jackson. 2017. Autumn Olive.Penn State University. Available to public Online:


Delanoy, L., & Archibold, O. (2007). Efficacy of Control Measures for European Buckthorn ( Rhamnus cathartica L.) in Saskatchewan. Environmental Management, 40(4), 709-718. doi:10.1007/s00267-006-0409-1


Dornbos, J. L., Martzke, M. R., Gries, K., & Hesselink, R. (2016). Physiological competitiveness of autumn olive compared with native woody competitors in open field and forest understory. Forest Ecology And Management, 372101-108. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2016.03.051


Lee,T.D., Eisenhaure, S.E., & Gaudreau, I.P. (2017). Pre-logging Treatment of Invasive Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus Mill.) Promotes Regenderation of Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus L.). Forest (19994907), 8(1), 1-12. Doi:10.3390/f8010016


Michigan Department of Natural Resources. (2012). Invasive species-best control practices Autumn Olive. Michigan Natural Features Inventory. Online references: found at-


Moore, M. R., Buckley, D. S., Klingeman, I. E., & Saxton, A. M. (2013). Distribution and growth of autumn olive in a managed forest landscape. Forest Ecology And Management, 310589-599. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2013.08.056


Global invasive species database ‘Autumn Olives’ (2005) Retrieved from:


Nagel, L. M., Corace, I. G., & Storer, A. J. (2008). An Experimental Approach to Testing the Efficacy of Management Treatments for Glossy Buckthorn at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Upper Michigan. Ecological Restoration, 26(2), 136-142. (2016) Retrieved from:


Walker, B ‘The Views of Autumn Olives’ Dave’s Garden (2012) Retrieved from:



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