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

Hector Black hblack1925 at fastmail.fm
Wed Jan 11 22:36:39 EST 2012

Hello Nafexers,
      Autumn olive is a subject of great interest to me so I would like to 
add a couple of comments to this very interesting thread.  I agree with all 
of you!  With the qualification that I find truth in what each of have 
written about autumn olive.
   It was back 34 or so years ago that autumn olive caught my eye because of 
its nitrogen fixing ability.  A USDA study showed 25% additional growth in 
black walnuts interplanted with autumn olive against growth in a control 
group.  I ordered fromm USDA, Michigan dept. ag, Ark. dept ag, and one other 
loocation, planting a couple of hundred bushes.  I planted them with Chinese 
chestnut, black walnut, English walnut, fruit trees, pecans.  After 
discovering that some were thorny we removed them, also those with small 
fruit.  They didn't work well with fruit trees because of their low 
branching which interfered with harvesting, but were excellent with nut 
trees.  The finest results (in terms of effect of N-fixation) was the result 
of planting with Chinese chestnut.  These trees are normally rather shrubby, 
but with the autumn olive on either side in the row they grew clear 8 ft and 
longer clear trunks.  Quite a sight now in their 30th or so year.
     Becoming interested in the whole family as N-fixers, I tried 
Shepherdia, Goumi, Sea Buckthorn,  Russian olive.  The degree of N-fixation 
seemed to vary although we had no way to test that beyond observation.  It 
seemed autumn olive outdid all the others in N production, but in the course 
of investigation, I read that production of N can also vary from plant to 
plant in autumn olives.
      We started using the fruit early on and eventually made selections 
based on size, productivity, flavor and ease of picking.  We had already 
removed all thorny bushes and gradually removed the small and less tasty 
berries.  A friend boiled the berries with just enough water to get them 
cooking, cooked the whole things, seeds and all to a wonderful jam with no 
sugar added.  There is a good amount of sugar and pectin present in the 
      USDA in Beltsville asked us to ship samples of our best berries of 
nutritient analysis.  They were so impressed by the nutrient value and 
amount of antho-cyanins, anti-oxidants etc. that they planted a small field 
with the idea of  pruning them for mechanical harvest and juice making. 
Aside from juice, jelly and jam, we had made a wonderful fruit leather by 
adding applesauce to autumn olive pulp.
    So yes we were pumped on autumn olive as they say and could not 
understand the invasive exotic designation..  We mowed our fields at least 
twice a year so invasiveness was not a problem.  BUT we made a planting 
perhaps 14 years ago on adjoining land that was not mowed or cared for and 
the result was a jungle.  We had not noticed autumn olives invading the 
forest.  They only appeared where trees had been blown down and sunlight 
reached the forest floor, and then only lasted until the forest took over 
again by shading them out.  The jungle we tackled with back hoe which was 
expensive learning.  Regular mowing once or twice a year is necessary in our 
area to prevent their taking over an open field.
     On the plus side, we noticed that black walnuts in particular that 
sprouted out of a hedge of autumn olives grew magnificently.  Rapid, fast, 
straight with few lower branches.  The soil improvement done by autumn 
olives is impressive.
     The various letter you have sent show how important it is not to take 
the experience of one region and assume it is true everywhere.  Observation 
is key in all agricultural endeavours - well, probably in all endeavours.
     This is rather long, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all sides of this 
discussion.     Hector Black zone 6 middle tn
            Forgot to mention it's a great bee plant, and the fragrance is 
heavenly in April.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard Moyer" <ramoyer at gmail.com>
To: <nafex at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2012 2:24 PM
Subject: Re: [nafex ibiblio list] Eleagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive - 
interested in sources for seedlings of this plant

> 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.
> http://www2.tricities.com/news/2011/sep/26/autumn-olive-strangles-agriculture-ar-1336608/
> 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
> yards.
> Thanks for the discussion; fun to debate appropriate spread of fruiting 
> plants.
> Grace and peace,
> Richard Moyer
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