Virginia Tech Dendrology

thorny-olive Elaeagnaceae Elaeagnus pungens Thunb. Listen to the Latin symbol: ELPU2
Leaf: Evergreen, alternate, simple, thick, 2 to 4 inches long, half (or less) as wide, oval to lanceolate, with entire to wavy margins that may be crisped with brown scales, shiny waxy green and distinctly scaly above, silvery and scaly below and on the petiole.
Flower: Bell-shaped, 1/2 to 5/8 inch long, distinctly fragrant, lacking petals, pale yellow to white, appearing in late fall.
Fruit: Berry-like oval achene, red covered with silver scales, 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, sweet, juicy and edible, matures in spring.
Twig: Silvery scaly or red-brown scaly, may bear thorns, later developing a shiny light brown color; buds are small, silvery-brown and rounded, covered with 4 very loose scales.
Bark: Scaly reddish brown and smooth when young, with orange lenticels.
Form: A shrub, small tree, or a scrambling climber, to 20 feet tall and as wide when free-standing, when given a supporting structure it can climb higher, very irregular in outline, with long slender branches often sticking up above the rest of the "crown", produces root suckers.
Looks like: Russian-olive - autumn-olive - buffaloberry
leaf flower fruit twig bark form1 map
Additional Range Information: Elaeagnus pungens is planted in the USDA hardiness zones shown above and may seed into the landscape. See states reporting thorny-olive.
External Links: USDA Plants Database
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson