This shrub is:

  • found growing wild in a field
  • in New Hampshire, USA; USDA Zone 5
  • about 1m (3') tall
  • alternate, smooth edged, ~6cm (2.5") long leaves
  • growing on a hillside in gravelly, acidic (pH ~5), nutrient-poor soil
  • fruit is small (<1cm) and red, containing a single seed ~6mm (1/4") long; it's September (beginning autumn here) and the berries are on the bush -- I'm not sure how long they've been there
  • the area was completely cleared (i.e. with a bulldozer) about 5 years ago so the plant is not very old

Close-up of fruit:

Twig detail:



My hand in the shot for size reference on leaves.

Seed detail:

Bud detail:

  • How many seeds per fruit, and what size and type of seed?
    – J. Musser
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 19:12
  • I have ilex cultivars and they don't look like this in regards to leaf colour or the location of the berries. Another picture of the berries would help
    – kevinskio
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 23:05
  • Ilex looks possible. I'll inspect some fruits more closely tomorrow and try a better camera for a closeup on the buds. Thanks for the title edit.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 3:08

2 Answers 2


Well, I am going to suggest Elaeagnus umbellata, Autumn Olive. Alternate, entire, lanceolate, red fleshy berries, New Hampshire and is also a nitrogen fixer which helps it to grow in tough environments.

  • This does look right, Except possibly the berries. When bstpierre 'inspects' the plant for the seed count and size/type, that should clinch it.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 1:52
  • Here's the US National Park Service's link about the plant: nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/elum.htm
    – The Flash
    Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 2:32
  • I'm accepting this answer, though I'm trying to figure out whether it's really E. umbellata or E. angustifolia.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 18:39
  • Autumn olive looks like the more likely candidate. Thanks!
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 18:49

I believe it's an Elaeagenus multiflora Goumi. It could be a twin of the one I have in my backyard. The only difference is the fruiting time - mine fruits midsummer here in Wisconsin.

The berries are edible, but they are better if you rub them on your slacks a bit before eating to remove the little whitish raised dots on them. As you noticed, they also have a rather large seed, so aren't a berry you'll probably be eating a ton of. Their flavor does grow on you, though.

ETA - bstpierre, here's what I've heard about telling the difference between them (and I've only seen the goumi in person, so I'm not certain):

  • Goumi have a mature height of 6-8 feet. Autumn olive are larger at 12-18 feet.
  • Goumi berries are larger than autumn olives. Fruit can be up to 2.5 cm long (so, 1/2"-1" long), vs 3/8" for autumn olives.
  • Goumi berries fruit mid summer, vs fall for Autumn Olives
  • Goumi berries are distributed along the stem, while Autumn Olives tend to hang in clusters.

They are so similar though - it really is quite hard to tell the difference! The fruit size and distribution made me think Goumi, but fruiting time looks like Autumn Olive.

  • 2
    How do you distinguish between E. umbellata and E. multiflora? I see some minor differences in the descriptions e.g. on Wikipedia, but I'm not sure what differences are definitive.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 14:13
  • 2
    I posted a follow-up question here: gardening.stackexchange.com/q/14146/51 Your edit would be welcome there as an answer.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 19:05
  • I'll copy it over, then. I'm really interested to see if someone else has a better answer, though. This is a tough one!
    – michelle
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 19:53

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