[nafex ibiblio list] Eleagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive - interested in sources for seedlings of this plant

Richard Moyer ramoyer at gmail.com
Mon Jan 9 15:24:57 EST 2012

Lawrence, Rivka and others,
Thanks for this discussion about autumn olive.  One of my earliest
childhood memories is climbing a tree in my backyard to see
balled-in-burlap Bradford pears blooming, by the hundreds, at the once
venerable Fruitland Nursery.  Growing up playing in that nursery
informed my imagination about what could be grown in the SE US.  In
the decades since, I have seen impenetrable, thorny, pear thickets
develop on contiguous, open public land.  Eleagnus umbellata and
Eleagnus pungens were planted in neat nursery rows, the only place
they occurred on thousands of nursery acres.   With my children last
week, I visited other contiguous land, along the Savannah River and
Augusta Canal.  What was once semi-open land along the river has
morphed into numerous, impenetrable thickets of both of these
Eleagnus, crowding out a rich diversity of native species.  Multiple
other non-natives are there, but none as invasive as these Eleagnus.

A douglas fir forest I biked in during grad school had a small thicket
of himalayan blackberry around 1985.  When I returned for a sabbatical
in 2000, the forest understory was entirely taken over by this very
vigorous and thorny blackberry.  Was alarmed to see this summer a
similar looking, non-native blackberry thicket, taking over a pasture
hillside.  The farmer says he's mowing and spraying to eradicate it.

For the record, I have defended on this list the planting of
wineberry, a naturalized asian raspberry that is much better behaved
than the Eleagnus above.  And I have defended the planting of goumi,
another Eleagnus that Steven mentioned.  And when I've promoted edible
selections of Poncirus trifoliata, someone on this list warned about
the thickets of this plant on their land in central NC; something I'd
never seen when I lived in Durham and wandered widely.      And I've
posted the last couple of years about the autumn olive fruit we pick
and sell in quantity at market; the best of our selections.

I live in SW Virginia now.  Though some of the conclusions are
exaggerated, see this article about the serious threat of autumn olive
to open land in this region.
 Reasons for widespread planting of autumn olives are given here, a
practice done in the 60 and 70s.
While looking for 18 months for a farm to purchase, we passed on those
overtaken with invasive plants such as autumn olive.   We did buy a
farm 3.5 years ago, half open and half wooded.  Autumn olive and
multiflora rose are the primary woody plants we battle on our 30+
acres that are not easily mowed.  Regardless of slope, aspect, shale
vs. limestone soils, full sun to shade, pH or mineral differences from
soil tests, autumn olive and multiflora rose inhibit walking through
significant portions of our farmland.  Sizeable plants are tough to
pull or dig out, and root pieces resprout.  Where slope allows, we
then mow and graze heavily.  Neighbors recommend powerful herbicides
that have worked for them, something we've not done yet.  We're at
1800 ft.  Since 1992 we've watched a state-owned homestead at over
3000 ft that has been overrun with autumn olive, from a small planting
near the cemetery.  The invasion was set once the state no longer
committed the funds to dig, mow or spray the seedlings on so many
acres multiple times a year.

I trust the above does not appear 'hysterical'; what I am trying to
document is the variety of locales where autumn olive, once
established, has invaded contiguous land.  Though I don't recall
thickets of Eleagnus when I lived and wandered near Durham NC in the
late 80s, a Google search just found multiple pics of autumn olive and
the related E. pungens, growing on wooded edges and open areas in
Durham and Orange counties, NC.  Including a thicket under a
powerline, reportedly started by birds dropping seed.

Spent most of my life as a grower in suburbia enjoying a wide-variety
of non-native fruits.  Now as a farmer, and one who teaches selective
foraging on my own and adjacent lands, I give more weight to
precautions about certain exotic plants and their unforeseen spread to
lands not intensively managed by hand labor.

It could be worse, I had a student from PA who wrote about plum pox,
resulting in many homeowners having to destroy plums and related
fruits in their yards.  And have read about citrus disease measures in
FL, with similar search and destroy missions carried out in suburban

Thanks for the discussion; fun to debate appropriate spread of fruiting plants.

Grace and peace,
Richard Moyer

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