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ELAEAGNUS pungens

Image of Elaeagnus pungens

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Elaeagnaceae

Botanical Name

ELAEAGNUS pungens

Plant Common Name

Silverthorn, Thorny Olive

General Description

Thorny olive is a large evergreen shrub to small tree native to China and Japan where it exists along open slopes and thickets near the oceanside or waterways. It has also become naturalized in the southeastern United States where it is considered a problematic invasive shrub. It is fast-growing, tough and grows well in difficult areas but has a coarse, informal look that is visually unappealing.

The oblong to elliptical leaves of thorny olive are dark green on the top and silver-gray on the bottom with rusty scales or dots. The leaf edges are often wavy. Its long branches are thorny and colored with silver and rusty scales. Small, creamy to silvery white, bell-shaped flowers that are strongly fragrant appear in small clusters at the leaf joints. These occur in autumn and are followed by silvery red, oval berry-like drupes.

This truly thorny shrub is tolerant of most well-drained soils, and full sun is preferred but partial shade tolerated. If not pruned, shrubs will look ungainly and irregular, so pruning is suggested for plants grown in areas where appearance matters. Thorny olive is fast-growing, salt and drought tolerant as well as pest-resistant—the reasons why some choose to plant it. It can be used for erosion control shrub and thrives in natural areas, sometimes to a fault. Elaeagnus pungens has escaped cultivation in the American South where growers should avoid planting it.

All Elaeagnus species fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, a quality which allows then to grow better in poorer soils.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    9 - 7

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    6 - 9

  • Sunset Zone

    4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    10'-15' / 3.0m - 4.6m (12)

  • Width

    10'-15' / 3.0m - 4.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Fall, Late Fall

  • Native To

    China, Japan

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Pollution, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    White, Silver

  • Fruit Color

    Red, Silver

  • Fruit Color Modifier

    Bicolor

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    White, Dark Green, Sienna

  • Foliage Color (Spring) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    White, Dark Green, Sienna

  • Foliage Color (Summer) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    White, Dark Green, Sienna

  • Foliage Color (Fall) Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    White, Dark Green, Sienna

  • Foliage Color (Winter) Modifier

    SpottedMottled

  • Bark Color

    Sienna, Silver

  • Bark Color Modifier

    Spotted/Mottled

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Corky

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Hedges, Screening / Wind Break

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    Yes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes