thorny olive USDA PLANTS SYMBOL: ELPU2
Elaeagnus pungens Thunb.
Synonym(s): thorny elaeagnus, silverthorn, spotted elaeagnus

Thorny olive 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. Thorny olive closely resembles two other exotic olives, autumn olive and Russian olive. A high shade tolerance allows thorny olive to invade both in open areas and under forest canopies. The seeds are dispersed by animals, giving this plant the potential for rapid spread. Thorny olive is native to eastern Asia and was first introduced into the United States in 1830 as an ornamental.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources