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Silverthorn Elaeagnus pungens

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
el-ee-AG-nus PUN-gens
This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This is a tough rapidly growing vine-like shrub that is resistant to drought, salt spray, pollution, and damage by deer.  It has long shoots that trail out in many directions and can develop an unkempt appearance if not maintained.   Showy white fragrant flowers are followed by showy red fruits that attract birds.  Young branchlets are covered by brown scales and the stems have thorns that can "hook" onto other plants and structures to climb up. 

It tolerates a range of soil types including poor and infertile and is highly salt tolerant. It tolerates shade but will have thinner foliage. It is a large shrub so does well as a background plant, planted on slopes for erosion control, or as a barrier plant or windbreak. 

Be wary as it is listed on the Non-Native Invasive Plants of Southern Forests and the Invasive Plant Atlas of the MidSouth. It can produce dense thickets, displacing native species and disrupting wildlife.  Animals and birds help to disperse seeds.

Please consider planting native plants. See the side panel for suggestions.

Seasons of Interest:  

    Leaves: Evergreen Bloom: Fall; Fruit/Seed/Nut: Spring

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: No serious insect or disease problems though fungal leaf spot and rust may occur and spider mites can attack stressed plants. Although technically a shrub, Elaeagnus pungens is capable of climbing and can attach to overhead trees if branches are not maintained. The trunk tends to sucker and this plant will also spread by seed.  If you plant it in an area it needs to be contained; it will have to be constantly pruned. 

Quick ID Hints:

  • Vine-like shrub with brown scaley thorns
  • Leaves covered with silvery scales below
  • Petiole and major veins covered with brown scales
  • Flowers silvery-white and fragrant 
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Fruitlandii, Hosoba-fukurin, 'Variegata'
Tags:
#thorns#evergreen#invasive#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#fall flowers#weedy#salt tolerant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#fast growing#aggressive#thickets#red fruits#screening#fantz#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Fruitlandii, Hosoba-fukurin, 'Variegata'
Tags:
#thorns#evergreen#invasive#fragrant flowers#drought tolerant#fall flowers#weedy#salt tolerant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#high maintenance#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#fast growing#aggressive#thickets#red fruits#screening#fantz#urban conditions tolerant#bird friendly#food source soft mast fruit#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Elaeagnus
    Species:
    pungens
    Family:
    Elaeagnaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China, Korea, Japan
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruits are a food source for birds.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Vine
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Dense
    Erect
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    1/2 inch drupes are one-seeded, reddish-brown and ripen in spring (late March-May). Initially densely scaley and green maturing to a silvery-red oval drupe.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gray/Silver
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Flower Shape:
    Bell
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    1/2 inch fragrant (pungent), bell-shaped silvery-white flowers in axillary clusters bloom in fall. Silvery-white (due to scales), fragrant, axillary. Blooms can be taken indoors and used as a natural deodorizer.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Undulate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    2-4 in. long leaves with ruffled margins are shiny green on top, silvery-white with tiny brown scales below. Alternate, simple, evergreen, linear-ovate to ovate, green above, covered in silvery scales below, major veins and petiole covered with brown scales.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Covered with brown scales, develop 2-3" thorns.
  • Landscape:
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Security
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Salt
    Problems:
    Invasive Species
    Spines/Thorns
    Weedy