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Silverthorn, Thorny Olive

Elaeagnus pungens

Plant: Evergreen, bushy shrub with long limber projecting shoots, scattered thorny, 3-16 ft (1- 5 m) tall, densely leafy, leaves silver scaly beneath (above in spring). Often found as escaped single plants from animal-dispersed seeds.

Stem: Multiple and ascending (bushy), twigs brown and densely brown-scaly and hairy when young, short shoots with small leaves becoming sharp thorns 0.4-1.6 in (1-4 cm) long, thorns producing leafy lateral branches in second year, bearing flowers in fall, lateral branches distinctly long-limber and extending beyond bushy crown in late summer to spring and ascending into trees, bark dark drab and rough with branched or unbranched thorns.

Leaves: Alternate, oval to elliptic, 1.6-4 in (4-10 cm) long and 0.4-2 in (2-5 cm) wide, margins irregular and wavy, surfaces initially silver scaly becoming dark green or brownish-green above and densely silver scaly with scattered brown scales beneath, petioles 0.1-0.2 in (4-5 mm), long grooved above.

Flowers: Nov-Dec. Axillary clusters, 1-3 flowers, tubular with 4 lobes, silvery-white to brown, 0.4 in (1 cm) long, fragrant.

January (J. Miller)

March (T. Bodner)

Fruit and seeds: May-Jun. Drupe (berry-like), oblong, 0.4-0.6 in (1-1.5 cm) long, fleshy, red and brown scaly when ripe, persistent shriveled calyx tube at tip.

Ecology: Spreads by animal-dispersed seeds and occurs as scattered individuals, both in the open and under forest shade. Fast-growing, weedy ornamental, still being planted for landscaping. Frequently planted for hedgerows and on highway rights-of-way. Tolerant of drought and salt.

Resembles autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) and Russian olive (E. angustifolia) with both of these being deciduous. Autumn olive leaves green above and flowers early summer producing many reddish-rounded berries in fall and early winter. Russian olive with silver scaly twigs and leaf surfaces, which flowers early summer producing many yellow olives in fall and winter.

Exotic Pest Plant Control Recommendations

Bayer International Code - ELPU2
FIA Code - 2037

April (J. Miller) October (T. Bodner)

April (J. Miller)

* USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1 ( National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. February 5, 2002.

States with suspected
infestations are shown in red.*
USDA Forest ServiceUSDA APHIS PPQ The Bugwood Network University of Georgia is a joint project of
The Bugwood Network, USDA Forest Service & USDA APHIS PPQ.
The University of Georgia - Warnell School of Forest Resources and
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences - Dept. of Entomology
Last updated on Sunday, August 10, 2003 at 11:17 PM
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