The Elaeagnaceae are a plant family, the oleaster family, of the order Rosales comprising small trees and shrubs, native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, south into tropical Asia and Australia. The family has about 60 species in three genera.
They are commonly thorny, with simple leaves often coated with tiny scales or hairs. Most of the species are xerophytes (found in dry habitats); several are also halophytes, tolerating high levels of soil salinity.
The Elaeagnaceae often harbor nitrogen-fixing actinomycetes of the genus Frankia in root nodules, making them useful for soil reclamation. This characteristic, together with their production of plentiful seeds, often results in the Eleagnaceae being viewed as weeds.
Fossil pollen of Elaeagnacites is described from the late Cretaceous (Santonian) of China and pollen similar to that of Elaeagnaceae is widespread in the Paleocene. A fossil †Elaeagnus orchidioides flower is recorded from the late Pliocene of Willershausen (Kalefeld), Hesse, Germany. There are two fossil wood records with extensive documentation of anatomical features: Elaeagnus semiannulipora from the early Miocene of Yamagata, Japan and †EIeagnaceoxylon shepherdioides, considered similar to Shepherdia, from the Pliocene Beaufort Formation, northwestern Banks Island, Canada. Four fossil leaves have been described with diagnostic features of Elaeagnus from the late Miocene of eastern Tibet, modern altitude of 3910 m The silverberry genus Elaeagnus (Elaeagnaceae) reaches its greatest diversity (54 species) and endemism (36 species) in this area. The diversification of Elaeagnus in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and adjacent areas might have been driven by continuous uplift at least since the late Miocene, causing formation of complex topography and climate with high rainfall seasonality.
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