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Autumn Olive

 
Andrew Hebard
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I recently identified a shrub that has been growing throughout an overgrown field on my property.  It is Autumn Olive and I was wondering if anyone has had any experience using it in permaculture.  The berries are apparently edible (and healthy), and the shrub fixes nitrogen.  Seems pretty ideal, except for the fact that it is listed as an invasive in many states.  Has anyone used it in a plant guild?  Does it work with black walnut?
 
tel jetson
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Location: woodland, washington
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works well with black walnut.  along with goumi, some folks like to plant it in the same hole as another higher value fruit or nut tree to give it a boost.  acts as a nurse for the other tree, and produces fruit in the interim before the other tree matures.  either the other tree eventually shades out the Elaeagnus, or the Elaeagnus is cut down when its value to the other tree diminishes.

doesn't seem to spread where I'm at, so I plant it without worrying.  doesn't sound like you'll have to worry about that either, since you've got them in abundance already so you likely won't be planting any more.
 
                            
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Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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I planted a couple dozen of them last year.  Most got stuck in the same holes I dug for other trees, a few on their own.  It grows wild around here--some places pretty thickly.  I like the berries, but some people don't.  I've heard they make a great jelly or wine, but haven't had access to enough to try that.  One thing I have noticed about the places it grows thick: it seems to only invade poor land
 
Jordan Lowery
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i just received 25 autumn olives to plant this fall. looking to incorporate them into the inside wall of my living hedge/fences. providing food for wildlife, me and the neighboring plants.
 
M.K. Dorje
Posts: 153
Location: Orgyen
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I planted several Autumn Olive plants along the fence on the north side of my of my main orchard several years ago. I almost never water or fertilize them, and this year they have their first flowers. I'm looking forward to eating the berries this fall, as I have never tried this species before and I really love Goumi berries- their closest cousin. Apparently, Autumn Olive is considered an invasive weed in some Midwestern states, but not here in Oregon. Someone around this site mentioned that they use Autumn Olive trees as trellis plants for Grapes, I'm thinking about trying this out- maybe I'll plant some extra Grape plants alongside those Autumn Olives this month. I'd be interested in hearing more about this technique.
 
duane hennon
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Location: western pennsylvania zone 5/a
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autumn olive and its cousin, russian olive are rather invasive here in Pa.
  it wants to grow everywhere in open spaces.
I let them grow in areas where i want them and cut them down elsewhere.
the quality of the berries varies with the plant
if the plant produces good berries i build a bed around it and use it as a top or mid level layer.
if the fruit is only so-so, I use it for a grape or kiwi support in a bed.
both vines are rough on the bush so it doesn't produce many berries
these trees do not get very high, so the vines aren't very high when it come time to pick
hawthornes and crabapple also make good support trees for vines.
 
Paula Edwards
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I tried to germinate autumn olive seeds and it didn't work. Especially goumi would be nice. You don't get the plant here. Are there cultivators?
 
                                    
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I bought two improved varieties two years ago from Hidden Creek Nursery in TN.  Unfortunately, I saw in the 2010 catalog that the State of TN had banned Autumn Olive effective that spring, so they could no longer carry them.

Which is a shame.  Both of them fruited last year, albeit just a tiny handful on each because they are still small.  I was highly impressed with the quality of the fruit, much sweeter and nicer than the wild ones that grow so prolifically around here, and which are prone to being very astringent.  Both of the cultivated ones tasted a lot like pomegranate to me, and they had a very pleasant, sort of gelatinous texture that kind of reminded me of biting into a gummi bear candy.

Mine are called 'Brilliant Rose' and 'Jewel'.  Looking forward to getting bigger crops of them -- I could see this as a nice, walk by and eat some fruit bush out in the yard, and I bet they'd make killer jelly.
 
Brenda Groth
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i have both autumn olive and russian olive and sometimes forget which one is which, I love them but they are a bit aggressive

when they flower in spring you might not realize it is THEM but you'll definately smell them..from all over the yard !!

I will be sitting by the pond enjoying my fish and frogs and get this pleasant smell wafting by from somewhere..when I investigate and find out it is the olives I'm so thankful I have them all over !!
 
                            
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Autumn olive berries are good. I've seen a fellow process them by just cutting off the branches loaded with fruit and stripping them down later into a bucket. If you're in an area where there's tons of these around, this might be a strategy.

In my area, A-O's (Autumn Olives) do not grow so abundantly so I just strip them off the branches in the field. I like them a lot.

A-O's seem easy to propagate by dormant-wood cutting. I took a bunch of vertical shoots in the winter and have stuck them both in the field and in a container. The ones in the container have leafed out and are showing some beginning stages of rooting. No rooting hormone was used, but I think I might transfer them to something with some willow and seaweed in it to further promote rooting. Not sure about the ones I stuck in the field just because they're lost among the goldenrods right now.

I also hope to start some Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides; Eleagnaceae) here soon, and have another thorny N-fixing shrub -- Siberian Pea Tree -- sprouting up from seeds I planted. Soon I expect to be the bane of the valley when folks have these bushes running rampant in their pastures. Well, then, maybe they shouldn't have cut the forests for their cows and horses, eh?
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i haven't tried cuttings of them but they do spread by bird/berry

I love them

mine are just putting out flower buds, can't wait
 
John Sizemore
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Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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Is there a trick to when they taste good? They were not many in my area when I left twenty years ago and now I am back they are everywhere. I looked up everything I could about them to be sure I was identifying them right.
I tried one nice soft red berry the other day and it was like eating an unripe persimmon. What awful flavor. I could get used to it but am I missing something.
Mind you I am the guy as a kid use to walk through the oak thickets tasting acorns so I would know which oak trees had the best ones for survival food so I have high tolerance for bitter.
 
                                    
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jonbonz wrote:
Is there a trick to when they taste good? They were not many in my area when I left twenty years ago and now I am back they are everywhere. I looked up everything I could about them to be sure I was identifying them right.
I tried one nice soft red berry the other day and it was like eating an unripe persimmon. What awful flavor. I could get used to it but am I missing something.
Mind you I am the guy as a kid use to walk through the oak thickets tasting acorns so I would know which oak trees had the best ones for survival food so I have high tolerance for bitter.



Are you sure you've got the right fruit?  They don't ripen here until the end of summer, start of fall, late Sept at the earliest.  In fact, they haven't even bloomed yet.  I can't imagine they would be ripe anywhere yet, but I guess in the deep South perhaps?

Anyway, its mostly in the genetics.  Most of them do have a lot of tannin in the fruit, just like an unripe persimmon, which is why they are basically inedible raw.  Just like a persimmon, the riper/softer they are, the lower the tannin level, and after a couple of hard frosts they get better, but many are never something you'd eat out of hand.  A lot of it would just be trial and error, sampling many plants to select those with the least tannic fruits.  Just like your acorn samples.


 
Brenda Groth
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there are two very similar varieties, autumn olive and russian olive..they are a bit different from each other in that one has very silvery grey leaves and the other is more greyish green leaves, and they bear their berries at slightly different times (and that depends on the area of the country you are in)

 
Brenda Groth
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russian olive is the one that stays silvery throughout the year, autum olive starts out with the silvery color but soon turns green..both bear berries some are tastier than others
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Wish I could get my hands on some of that. Because of the "invasive" label, I have had trouble finding a source.
 
                            
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Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
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Both Autumn Olive and Russian Olive ripen in the fall, but there are other Elaeagnus spp. that ripen in the spring.  I found one a few weeks ago while leading a wild food walk.  I haven't tried to look it up, but it didn't taste good at all.  I meant to go back when they were riper, but haven't yet and they may be gone by now.

It would be nice to have a good-eating berry this time of year.  Does anybody know of any spring-ripening Elaeagnus spp. that are good?
 
                                    
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I need to correct one thing I said yesterday -- upon a closer look, my Autumn Olive have indeed already flowered and have tiny, tiny fruits on them.  It took a really close look to tell the difference, as I glanced at them the other day and thought they were flower buds.  But, a few have the last clinging vestiges of dead flowers, and there is a thin carpet of dead flowers underneath the plants, decomposing and turning brown.
 
John Polk
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If we were to shun everything on "their" invasives list, we would be living in a dessert.
It seems that if it is not traded in the commidities market, it's a weed.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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forest garden hugelkultur
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Are there any look-a-likes of Autumn Olive that one should avoid? I'm pretty sure that I've got a large tree/shrub of them identified that I'd like to do something with. They are just starting to ripen and would like to make a jam/jelly with them. Is there anything to watch out for? Anyone got a good recipe? Thanks for the help.
 
Andrew Bartelt
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Location: Central Wisconsin
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If it is banned in your state, look on ebay for seeds, you can find a lot of good seeds on there and the sellers selling Autumn olive, seabuckhorn, etc.. seem to all be selling things us permies like. Good luck.
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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If it's banned in your state, could be for a good reason. The berries are good, but not that good. From someone who is dealing with a similar invasive species that's a real nuisance!!! It's not mildly invasive, as in seedlings show up nearby. Rather, the birds spread the seeds for miles - off of your property and onto other people's and also parkland. So you growing it because you want to will be affecting your neighbors and people further away.

There are so many alternatives, not worth bothering with that one, imho. My favorite, and a native plant, is aronia (choke berry).

We planted an autumn olive near the garden and it took over, grew huge, and was impossible to kill. It had thorns, well, twigs that function like thorns, much like wild plums do. While it may have been fixing nitrogen, it seemed to also have some allelopathic properties - nothing much grew under it or too close to it - my asparagus was withdrawing as the roots advanced. The berries are tiny and while they do taste good, are quite a bit of work to get off, I'd never try making jelly from them! More something to feed the chickens (who were enthusiastic) or the kids. The flowers smell heavenly, but not worth the trouble that bush caused.
 
Steve Flanagan
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Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Renate Haeckler wrote:If it's banned in your state, could be for a good reason. The berries are good, but not that good. From someone who is dealing with a similar invasive species that's a real nuisance!!! It's not mildly invasive, as in seedlings show up nearby. Rather, the birds spread the seeds for miles - off of your property and onto other people's and also parkland. So you growing it because you want to will be affecting your neighbors and people further away.

There are so many alternatives, not worth bothering with that one, imho. My favorite, and a native plant, is aronia (choke berry).

We planted an autumn olive near the garden and it took over, grew huge, and was impossible to kill. It had thorns, well, twigs that function like thorns, much like wild plums do. While it may have been fixing nitrogen, it seemed to also have some allelopathic properties - nothing much grew under it or too close to it - my asparagus was withdrawing as the roots advanced. The berries are tiny and while they do taste good, are quite a bit of work to get off, I'd never try making jelly from them! More something to feed the chickens (who were enthusiastic) or the kids. The flowers smell heavenly, but not worth the trouble that bush caused.


Where are you located?
 
Renate Howard
pollinator
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When we had that autumn olive I was in southeastern PA, where the eleagnus are taking over in public park/wild areas.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I've found about 20 of them on my property. They seem to pop up anywhere the soil has been abused/disturbed. I'm actually trying to encourage them because they fix nitrogen and grow so fast. Last fall I fed a lot of them to my chickens and they loved them so much. Fast growing,nitrogen fixing, super hardy, woody, food plant. YES PLEASE!
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