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Silverthorn Elaeagnus pungens

Other Common Name(s):

This plant is an invasive species in North Carolina
Description

This is a tough rapidly growing shrub that is resistant to drought, salt spray, pollution, and damage by deer.  It tolerates a range of soil types including poor and infertile. It tolerates shade but will have thinner foliage. Showy white fragrant flowers are followed by fruit that attracts birds.  Young branchlets are covered by brown scales.  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.  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.  This plant is highly salt tolerant.

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. 

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 

Vine-like shrub 10-15' tall; long shoots growing in all directions.

Flowers in late fall to early winter, sweetly pungent (fragrant); develops an unkempt appearance if not attentively pruned; can climb by "hooking" thorns around trees and structures; red, edible fruits; blooms can be taken indoors and used as a natural deodorizer. 

Drought tolerant; Urban tolerant; Salt tolerant; Alkaline tolerant; Tolerates poor soils; Relatively pest-free.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Fruitlandii
  • Hosoba-fukurin
Tags:
#evergreen#birds#invasive#drought tolerant#fall flowers#wildlife plant#weedy#salt tolerant#winter interest#windbreak#barrier#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#screens#fantz
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Fruitlandii
  • Hosoba-fukurin
Tags:
#evergreen#birds#invasive#drought tolerant#fall flowers#wildlife plant#weedy#salt tolerant#winter interest#windbreak#barrier#air pollution tolerant#erosion control#screens#fantz
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Elaeagnus
    Species:
    pungens
    Family:
    Elaeagnaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    China, Korea, Japan
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    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
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • 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, bell-shaped silvery-white flowers in axillary clusters bloom in fall. Silvery-white (due to scales),fragrant, axillary.
  • Leaves:
    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 Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Covered with brown scales, develop 2-3" thorns.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Pollution
    Salt
    Problems:
    Invasive Species