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Elaeagnus commutata USDA.jpg
American silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Elaeagnus

See text

Elaeagnus distribution.svg

Elaeagnus /ˌɛlˈæɡnəs/,[1] silverberry or oleaster, is a genus of about 50–70 species of flowering plants in the family Elaeagnaceae.[2]


The vast majority of the species are native to temperate and subtropical regions of Asia.[2] Elaeagnus triflora extends from Asia south into northeastern Australia, while E. commutata is native to North America, and Elaeagnus philippinensis is native to the Philippines. One of the Asian species, E. angustifolia, may also be native in southeasternmost Europe, though it may instead be an early human introduction there. Also, several Asiatic species of Elaeagnus have become established as introduced species in North America, with some of these species being considered invasive, or even designated as noxious, in portions of the United States.[2][3][4]


Elaeagnus plants are deciduous or evergreen shrubs or small trees.[2] The alternate leaves and the shoots are usually covered with tiny silvery to brownish scales, giving the plants a whitish to grey-brown colour from a distance. The flowers are small, with a four-lobed calyx and no petals; they are often fragrant. The fruit is a fleshy drupe containing a single seed; it is edible in many species. Several species are cultivated for their fruit, including E. angustifolia, E. umbellata, and E. multiflora (gumi). E. umbellata contains the carotenoid lycopene.[5]


Elaeagnus species are widely cultivated for their showy, often variegated, foliage, and numerous cultivars and hybrids have been developed.[6]

The fruit is acid and somewhat astringent.[2] It makes good tarts."[7]

E. angustifolia cultivated as bonsai

Notable species and hybrids in cultivation include:-

The hybrid Elaeagnus × submacrophylla[8] and the cultivar 'Gilt Edge'[9] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[10]

Berries from a large-fruited cultivar


Elaeagnus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Coleophora elaeagnisella and the Gothic moths. The thorny shrubs can also provide good nesting sites for birds.

Nitrogen fixation[edit]

Many Elaeagnus species harbor nitrogen-fixing organisms in their roots, so are able to grow well in low-nitrogen soils.[2] This ability results in multiple ecological consequences where these Elaeagnus species are present. They can become invasive in many locations where they are established as exotic species. Two species (E. pungens and E. umbellata) are currently rated as category II noxious, invasive species in many world regions[2] and by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.[4]

Selected species[edit]



  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book. 1995. pp. 606–7. ISBN 978-0-376-03850-0.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive)". CABI. 3 January 2018. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Elaeagnus". County-level distribution maps from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Invasive Plant Lists". Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
  5. ^ Fordham, Ingrid M.; Clevidence, Beverly A; Wiley, Eugene R.; Zimmerman, Richard H. (2001). "Fruit of autumn olive : A rich source of lycopene". HortScience. 36 (6): 1136–7. ISSN 0018-5345.
  6. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1-4053-3296-4.
  7. ^ J. H. Maiden (1889). The useful native plants of Australia : Including Tasmania. Turner and Henderson, Sydney.
  8. ^ "RHS Plantfinder - Elaeagnus × submacrophylla". Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Eleagnus × ebbengei 'Gilt Edge'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 5 June 2020.
  10. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 35. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

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