Autumn Olive – 11/6/06
Observer: Paul Lauenstein
Observation Date: 11/6/06
Observation Time: 2:10 p.m.
Observation Location: Gavins Pond Road
Common Name: Autumn Olive
Scientific Name: Elaeagnus umbellata
Comments: Autumn-olive is a hardy, prolific shrub that thrives in a variety of conditions, in part because it is capable of fixing nitrogen. Some varieties can produce up to 80 pounds (37 kilos) of bright red edible berries in a season, which ripen in October and give the plant its common name. Introduced from Japan in 1830 and widely planted in the 1940s to revegetate disturbed habitats, it is now invasive in many parts of North America. Birds (especially starlings) and mammals relish its copious fruits and spread it far and wide.
Having a sweet and tart flavor when ripe, the berries can be eaten fresh or processed for jam, condiments, or fruit leather. When mature, the red berries contain carotenoids, including considerable amounts of lycopene, a substance also found in tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya, and rosehip.