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Friday, July 31, 2015

Elaeaganus umbellata - Autumn Olive

I encountered a specimen of the Autumn Olive (Japanese Silverberry) while looking at some ash trees and thought, wow, who would have planted that? I am very familiar with the Russian Olive, Elaeagnus angustifolia, and its weedy weak wooded habits, but not with this tree. So a little digging and the only reason someone might have planted it could have been the fruit, tiny as they are, contain significantly more lycopene than tomatoes. The plant roots are colonized by a nitrogen fixing bacteria. They are also considered noxious weeds. A deciduous small tree or large shrub, they are more or less rounded.

Leaves are deciduous, alternate, simple, narrowly lanceolate to elliptical, 1-4" long, with somewhat undulated margins. In the spring they are covered with silver scales. The scales fall off the top of the leaf by summer but remain on the lower surface.

Flowers have a long tubular calyx that spreads at the tips and are often described as bell-shaped start shaped with four white sepals, about 1" long, fragrant, opening in the spring, in the axils of the leaves singularly or in groups.

Fruit is a small red berry-like drupe (?), with silver specks. Plants produce lot of them in the summer ripening in fall.

Young stems also completely covered with silver scales when young, becoming reddish brown by years end. Buds are also silver. Trunk is reddish brown and smooth, later becoming furrowed and peeling.

My first thought when seeing this specimen was the Russian Olive but the fruit looks different.

300 Poppy Way

1 comment:

  1. Living in Santa Cruz you may also wonder across elaeagnus latifolia a viney shrub with similar foliage but produces fruits the size of a plum. All of the elaeagnus fruits are edible and tasty but are astringent until fully ripe so if you pick one of the fruits and it's a little bitter give them more time. in my area they ripen in late August- Oct