thorny olive
Elaeagnus pungens Thunb.


Elaeagnus pungens is a dense evergreen shrub that invades natural areas throughout the southeastern United States. The shrub is often multi-stemmed and short. Sharp shoots give it a thorny appearance. Shrubs can grow 3.3-26.3 ft. (1-8 m) tall. Shrubs are usually very dense with long shoots extending from the top.
The leaves are alternate, oval to elliptical, with irregular wavy margins and silvery surfaces, 2-4 in. (5.1-10.2 cm) in length and thick.
The axillary clusters of small, sweet-smelling, white to brown flowers develop in the fall.
Plants rarely fruit, but fruit are small, red and dotted with small brown scales.
Ecological Threat
Elaeagnus pungens closely resembles two other exotic olives, autumn olive and Russian olive. A high shade tolerance allows Elaeagnus pungens to invade both in open areas and under forest canopies. The seeds are dispersed by animals, giving this plant the potential for rapid spread. This plant is native to eastern Asia and was first introduced into the United States in 1830 as an ornamental.


Selected Images


EDDMapS Distribution

EDDMapS Distribution - This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts, herbaria, and literature. For more information, visit

State Regulated List

State Regulated List - This map identifies those states that list this species on their regulated list. For more information, visit

Taxonomic Rank

Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Rhamnales
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Genus: Elaeagnus
Subject: Elaeagnus pungens Thunb.

Synonyms and Other Names

Other Common Names:
thorny elaeagnus, silverthorn, spotted elaeagnus


Plants - Shrub or Subshrub