Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb) is an invasive deciduous shrub here in my neck of the woods. It originates from Asia. It was brought back and cultivated as early as the 1800s to provide habitat and food source for wildlife but made it’s way to roadsides and erosion-prone soil in the 1950s. It has become quite a prolific competitor by shading out many native grasses and shrubs.


The Autumn Olive is fairly easy to identify as the leaves are a silverly-green, almost grey sheen to them. The berries themselves are a bright orange-red when ripe and have small tan specs on them. They almost look as if they have a silverly, glitter. The texture of the berries are supple with a thin skin to them when ripe. The berries themselves grow along the main branches, near the base of the leaves. The shrub itself has woody branches and can grow as tall as 20 feet high and sprawl out as much as 30 feet wide.

Look Alike:

Honeysuckle berries (which grow on vines and wooded plants) do look similar to autumn olives and are highly toxic if ingested. They are also confused with a number of other red-berry bearing plants but the tale-tale signs are there if studied properly. Check out these additional resources on possible look alike. Source Source Source Here is a FREE resource on Autumn Olive and would a great addition to your Home Books. (Not a Compendium Member? Join Now!)


The berries, once ripe, can be eaten raw or preserved. My friend Shallon at The appalachian Homestead mentioned that these berries were a good medicine akin to Elderberries. When we harvest the berries in late summer, early autumn, many don’t make it home as they are eaten quickly by reluctant helpers. If you do get a good batch of berries, they can be preserved into a dehydrated fruit leather, jams or preserves once the seeds are removed. Raw, they have a nice sour flavor much like sour candy and a hint of sweetness. The more ripe and wrinkled the berry, the sweeter it is.


I do not recommend starting the autumn olive from seed or propagating any part of this plant as it spreads far and wide by uneaten berries decomposing in place and seeding a new plant and animals spreading seed far and wide. If it’s not managed, it will proliferate and further suppress native species from thriving and overtime, decreasing biodiversity. Even in less than ideal conditions, the autumn olive thrives as it has nitrogen-correcting roots and nodules that make it suitable for poor soil and desolate places.

If you run across some on a forest edge, roadside, meadow or field of your own property – it’s best to remove it before fruit forms and seeds are mature. Your efforts will help prolong their take-over in places they are not welcome.

So, forage away! Gather as much as you can and dispose of seed in a well-maintained, hot compost heap (so that the seeds are properly denatured from the breaking down process), or better yet – burn them in your fire pit, and do not give to chickens or livestock. The seeds have a protective coating (like most seeds) and can withstand the digestive tract and crop up in undesirable places.

Autumn Olive Jam

This Recipe is an Adaptation from Marylands Dept. of Natural Resources.
Course Jam, Preserve
Cuisine American


  • Large Pot for Water Bath Canning
  • Glass Jars and Lids/Rings


  • 8 cups Autumn Olives
  • 2 Apple, roughly chopped and cored Natural Pectin
  • 3 cups Water
  • 2 cups Sugar Cane Sugar – Can substitute with Honey
  • 4 TBS Lemon Juice For Puree


  • Add the autumn olive berries, water and chopped apple (peels on), if using, to a large pot on medium heat. Stir frequently, smooshing berries for about 15 minutes until the fruit softens.
  • Press the hot fruit mixture through a metal sieve or food mill to remove the seeds. Heat the resulting juicey pulp with the sugar and lemon juice over medium, stirring frequently and skimming off any foam.
  • If you can run your finger through the jam and leave a clean line – slow to fold in on itself, then it’s done. Let the mixture cool, continuing to stir to prevent separation. Add a little squeeze of lemon juice to each jar and pour in jam, leaving a little bit of head space. Cover with sterilized lids and if planning to use quickly, turn upside down to cool and store in fridge or for long term storage, process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Keyword Autumn Olive, Fruit Preserve, Jam, Preserves

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