Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eat The Alien Invaders!

All photos by Jonathan Schechter (in my Brandon Twp, Michigan meadow)

Autumn olive is perhaps the most rapidly spreading plant in Michigan and a large
swath of the east and Midwest.  It is no longer just an invasive species looking for a
tentative foothold.
This berry-rich plant has conquered our landscape and late every summer the species
flames out  further  in into the landscape with the speed of a wind-driven wildfire.  
   Autumn olive, also called autumnberry  (that name tastes better in my mind) racks up
 air-miles of spreading  success because the juicy seeds are swallowed by birds and
then expelled out the other end after their travel time as tiny digestive track stowaways. 
  I know why song birds and wild turkeys,  raccoons and opossums love these berries.
They are delicious!

They are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant compound that is exceedingly  good for you. 
I pick them by the handfuls straight from the bush after a morning
rain and love the sweet yet slightly acidic flavor.  The berries can also be used in jams
and pies and to make a juice. But before you head into the fields on foraging mission
based on my descriptions and photos a word of caution: A blog with pictures and
 my anecdotes does not make for 100% certain identification. Without positive
 ID you should not be munching away on berries hoping you have the right one.  

Two clues help with identification.

 1.       The back side of the narrow leaves is silvery.

2.       The berries have tiny silvery/gold specks all over them.

 Autumn olive starts out as a small spindly shrub in a field and easily grows three or
four feet its first season. From there transforms into a rough and tough monster sized bush
that can get 15 feet tall with multiple and gnarly trunks. When the plant is in full sunlight
it because super-loaded with  berries to the point that branches hang low.
 How did autumn olive get here?  Conservation agencies and sportsman organizations
in numerous states urged its planting decades ago as a plant to attract wildlife and
stabilize soil.
  "Mission accomplished"

A refreshing yet tart trail treat for the tounge while hiking trails in the waning days of summer!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know that I have ever really noticed this plant before, but it piques my interest. Good post.

September 15, 2011 at 7:48 AM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

Anonymous--walk in a sunny field that has not been cut for a few years and you will find them!~ eat hearty and thanks for your post

September 15, 2011 at 8:02 AM 
Blogger Ulanawa said...

Very informative and the pics are wonderful to aid in identifying the plant and the berries. Enjoyed this. :)

September 15, 2011 at 8:36 AM 
Blogger Jonathan Schechter said...

Thanks Ulanawa--a great nature friend with a keen eye for detail has inspired me to play with macro-settings on my camera! :+)

September 15, 2011 at 8:43 AM 
Blogger Sandman said...

These berries are the fruits of the hunt. Great photo's.

September 15, 2011 at 9:20 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jon, you are always so eloquent in conveying your thoughts. Who else would describe these berry seeds as stowaways in a birds digestive tract?
Great job on the article and pictures!

September 15, 2011 at 6:21 PM 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home