The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Goumi: Potential invasive?

GoumiWhen I wrote about eating Autumn Olive fruits, I started to tell you that rather than planting the invasive (though useful) shrubs, you should install their kissing cousin Goumi in your garden.  Goumi made it onto my must-have list this spring when two Asheville forest gardeners both listed the fruit in their top four alongside more well known perennials like pears and blackberries.

In addition to producing delicious berries, both Autumn Olives and Goumis are among the few non-legumes that are nitrogen-fixers, so the bushes can grow in very poor soil.  And I had read that Goumis aren't invasive.

However, a more extensive search of the internet puts that last assertion in doubt.  Yes, the USDA doesn't list Goumi as invasive at the moment, but the species has been seen growing in the wild in twelve states Goumi bonsaiand is listed as a potential invasive by Alabama and Tennessee.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if Goumi spreads far enough to be a federally listed invasive species in a few years.

Despite the enticing nature of Goumi bushes, I think I'm going to resist the urge to plant them in my garden.  I guess that if I was really itching to try the fruit without putting my woods at risk, I could always make a Goumi bonsai like this one....

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Yikes, goumi was near the top of my planting list for next year. I'm glad I heard this before I planted. I'm taking it off the list but I count this as a lesson learned to check for invasiveness for everything I plant.
Comment by Lisa Thu Oct 13 15:09:27 2011
I know what you mean about it being a lesson to do our own homework about invasiveness! I thought that mainstream nurseries wouldn't be selling invasive species, but I should have known better --- I still see Japanese honysuckle for sale at Lowes.
Comment by anna Thu Oct 13 17:17:48 2011

I haven't seen any wild goumi growing here in Japan, but then again, I haven't looked. They are a common garden plant here though. They are pretty astringent, but make a nice drink when soaked in vodka for a year.

Comment by Eric in Japan Thu Oct 13 20:26:11 2011

Interesting that you haven't seen it in the wild since it's supposed to be native to Japan (as well as China and Korea.) Of course, native plants tend to have a lot of diseases and predators holding them back, so it would be less common in its native land than as an invasive somewhere else.

Steeping in vodka for a year sounds pretty hard core... :-)

Comment by anna Thu Oct 13 20:36:49 2011


I'd second Eric's comments. Gumi are very popular here in Japan (and we've deliberately planted at least one in every garden we've had... my wife loves the berries). It isn't a plant that I would ever have thought of as invasive. The berries have a single, large (interestingly shaped) seed, so even re-seeding by birds wouldn't seem to be much of a problem. It has very attractive foliage, making it an ideal decorative shrub as well as a food (or drink :-)) source. I'd definitely recommend the Gumi as a garden shrub (it's about as invasive as an apple in our 20+ years experience of growing it).

Comment by John Fri Oct 14 19:03:30 2011
What gives goumi such a potential for invasiveness is its ability to fix nitrogen. That means it can grow in extremely poor soil where other plants can't grow. Naturally, these areas would be colonized by non-woody plants that slowly put down enough soil that trees and shrubs can colonize, but if a nitrogen-fixing shrub is able to get at toehold while the soil is still poor, it can outcompete those early successional trees and shrubs. That's why Autumn Olive is such a scourge in our area. In Japan, though, that tendency would be offset by the natural predators that have evolved to prey on goumi.
Comment by anna Fri Oct 14 19:22:39 2011

So, what we must do is tetraploidize (if that's applicable to goumi karyotype) it, backcross to the diploid, and grow out the non-seedbearing triploid. Just as has been done with banana and some other fruit. If it works, then have vegetatively propagable sterile plants. Should have been done with Elaeagnus -- a little late now! P.S. I'm going to do just that. Does anyone know how thick the testa is?

Comment by Stanton de Riel Thu Feb 21 14:49:09 2013
Stanton --- Great idea! Once you get a hybrid that produces non-viable seed, please let me know --- I'd be glad to profile it on the blog and will definitely buy a few.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 21 16:42:56 2013
The trouble with rendering a plant species sterile is the same problem growers are having with bananas now. If all the subsequent plants of a variety are clones, they are all vulnerable to any disease that thrives on them. Plant developers are trying to obtain approval for GMO bananas in an attempt to get around the fungus that is killing off the Cavendish variety. I'd hate to see that happen to goumis or autumn olives (we keep those down by eating them, and I'll probably plant goumis next year too). Goats love both, by the way, as well as the Japanese honeysuckle.
Comment by Liz Wed Mar 6 09:12:44 2013

could you please let me know if those plants are deer tolerant:

1) Aronia melanocarpa, black chokeberry 2) Viburnum nudum, nannyberry 3) Viburnum lentago, nannyberry 4) Elaeagnus multiflora, goumi 5) Ribes hybrid, jostaberry 6) Viburnum cassionoides, witherod viburnum

Thank you

Comment by Leon Magarian Sun Mar 20 18:54:42 2016
My family has had Goumi bushes for over 40 years and we have not had any problems with them becoming invasive here in southeastern USA. In fact, it took some work to get a rooted cutting for a new bush.
Comment by April Fri Mar 2 09:19:43 2018

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