Thursday, March 27, 2014

Elaeagnus, Invasive Shrub

Elaeagnus umbellata, also known as Autumn Olive, is an invasive menace, yet I see it planted around homes and wonder how on earth that decision was made. It forms dense thorny thickets that even a rabbit might shun and spreads by off shoots from roots, rooting tips, and seed. In a short time the thicket becomes impenetrable, seemingly even to deer. The thorns may be 1-2 inches long, and take it from me, they don't care who they bite. In cutting them, wear thick protective clothing, or you will pay a price.

They grow 10-20 feet tall, often taking refuge beside a tree and leaning into the tree so that it's branches stick straight up. without a tree for support, the tips bend to the ground and root. In 2 or 3 years they form a trunk that requires a saw to cut.
See the berries? Pretty, huh? It's a trick. The birds love them and spread the plants far and wide. It blooms in the fall and you can smell the sweet fragrance before you see the plants. You may look around to find the source, but the flowers are inconspicuous. to me it smells like cold creme.
Like many invasives, Elaeagnus was introduced for use in landscaping, roadbank stabilization, and wildlife food, but has invaded forests, edge areas, and fields. I have it in my woods and I fight a constant battle to keep it back out of my yard. While seedlings are small a lawnmower can keep them cut back, but if you miss a mowing or two, more drastic measures will be called for.There is no possibility of eradication.
I find this a far worse pest than privet. Privet has no thorns, and it can be easily pulled up until the stems reach pencil size or larger. It would take an ox to pull up an Elaeagnus! And as far as I can tell, deer shun it for food, whereas they graze privet back till it outgrows their reach.
  My preferred treatment is to cut it back as close to the ground as I can and paint the stems (trunks) with herbicide. I am still wondering how to handle general spraying. Even if the tickets were killed, if they were not removed, the dead plants would provide a great nursery for the upcoming seedlings to flourish in, and it still would not be possible to pass through the dead plants.
 My advice is vigilance and if you spot any plants on your property, treat immediately. and above all, DO NOT PLANT ELAEAGNUS!!! grrrr

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