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Elaeagnus pungens - Thunb.

Common Name Elaeagnus, Thorny olive, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry, Silverthorn, Pungent Elaeagnus
Family Elaeagnaceae
USDA hardiness 6-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Sunny slopes, road sides and thickets in lowlands, usually below 1000 metres and especially by the sea[184, 266].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full shade Semi-shade Full sun
Elaeagnus pungens Elaeagnus, Thorny olive, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry,  Silverthorn, Pungent  Elaeagnus

Elaeagnus pungens Elaeagnus, Thorny olive, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry,  Silverthorn, Pungent  Elaeagnus


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Early winter, Late spring, Late winter, Mid spring, Mid winter. Form: Rounded, Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Elaeagnus pungens is an evergreen Shrub growing to 4 m (13ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from November to February, and the seeds ripen from April to May. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.



Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; not Deep Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit;  Seed.
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked[105, 177]. About the size of a large blackcurrant, though the seed is also quite large[K]. A nice sub-acid flavour when fully ripe but astringent if eaten before then[K]. Can be made into preserves, drinks etc[183]. The oval fruit is about 15mm long[200]. Seed - raw or cooked. It can be eaten with the fruit though the seed case is rather fibrous[K]. A taste vaguely reminiscent of peanuts[K]. The seed contains 42.2% protein and 23.1% fat on a zero moisture basis[218].

Figures in grams (g) or miligrams (mg) per 100g of food.
Seed (Dry weight)
  • 0 Calories per 100g
  • Water : 0%
  • Protein: 42.2g; Fat: 23.1g; Carbohydrate: 0g; Fibre: 0g; Ash: 0g;
  • Minerals - Calcium: 0mg; Phosphorus: 0mg; Iron: 0mg; Magnesium: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Potassium: 0mg; Zinc: 0mg;
  • Vitamins - A: 0mg; Thiamine (B1): 0mg; Riboflavin (B2): 0mg; Niacin: 0mg; B6: 0mg; C: 0mg;
  • Reference: [ 218]
  • Notes:

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antiasthmatic;  Antitussive;  Astringent;  Cancer.

The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers[214]. The leaves and the stems are concocted and used in the treatment of asthma, cough, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids etc[147, 218]. The seed is used to treat watery diarrhoea[218]. The root is astringent and is applied to sores, itchy skin etc[147, 218].

Other Uses

Hedge;  Hedge.

Plants can be grown as a hedge in exposed positions, tolerating maritime exposure[75]. Succeeds when planted under trees that have become bare at the base, in time it will scramble up into the tree and fill out the bottom[75].

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Cascades, Erosion control, Hedge, Screen, Seashore. Succeeds in most soils that are well-drained[11, 200]. Dislikes very alkaline soils[202]. Prefers a soil that is only moderately fertile, succeeding in poor soils and in dry soils[[11, 200]. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Very drought and shade resistant[200]. Tolerates maritime exposure[75]. Plants are hardy to about -15°c[200]. The foliage can be damaged in severe wind-chill conditions[202]. This is a potentially valuable fruit crop, fruiting as it does in April and May[K]. There are a number of named varieties[200, 202] and so there is plenty of scope for improving size and quality of fruit by selective breeding. Most cultivars are variegated and therefore slower-growing than the species[K]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]. The small flowers have a sweet but pungent aroma. They pervade the garden for some distance on sunny days[245]. Closely related to E. glabra[11]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200]. An excellent companion plant, when grown in orchards it can increase yields from the fruit trees by up to 10%. Special Features:Not North American native, Naturalizing, Fragrant flowers, Inconspicuous flowers or blooms.


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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[78]. It should germinate freely within 4 weeks, though it may take 18 months[K]. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help[98]. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well[78]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage[78]. It is best to take the cuttings in June[202]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 10 - 12cm with a heel, November in a frame. Leave for 12 months. Fair to good percentage[78]. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months[78].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here


Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Asia, Australia, China, Japan*, North America, USA,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

Kevin Feinstein   Mon Sep 24 2007

These plants have indeed been very successful in my heavy clay soil. And despite record winter freezes in my area, they managed to produce the first evergreen Elaeagnus fruit I have tasted. It flowered in the fall and the fruit ripened by early March. It was delicious, but I would happier if it produced more than 5 berry-size fruit. As an understory plant in a permaculture guild, it seems to have thrived while the canopy tree did not (persimmon). I would like to prune it back, which also raises the question of how to best prune it for fruit production. Any ideas?

feralkevin's permaculture and edible wild foods

   Apr 20 2012 12:00AM

I tried planting an Elaeagnus Pungens Maculata specimen from a ~2 litre pot, bought from a small nursery and pruned, directly into some quite heavy rocky soil near the north coast of Scotland at the start of spring. Within a few weeks its health turned for the worst, and most of the leaves on it now appear dead, although there is a small amount of life at the bottom of its branches. A few yards away an Elaeagnus x Ebbingei shrub potted in very similar conditions, but slightly down-slope of a very small swale, is in comparably good health, but has lost a few of its leaves in similar fashion to this one. I put up a couple of photos of the two shrubs here: engineeringourfreedom.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/did-you-say-shrubberies.html If anyone could advise me on what most likely caused this plant's ill-health and what, if anything, I can do to nurture it back to health, I would be very grateful. I currently most suspect root damage and waterlogging, but I don't know how good the drainage is on this site; there mostly seems to be about a foot-thick layer of muddy grass-smothered topsoil on top of a lot of rocks, and I don't know how permeable those rocks are.

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