A modern reference to temperate woody plants, including updated content from this site and much new material, can be found at Trees and Shrubs Online.

Elaeagnus angustifolia L.

Modern name

Elaeagnus angustifolia L.


E. hortensis Bieb.; E. argentea Moench, not Pursh

A deciduous shrub or small tree up to 40 ft high, with occasionally spiny branches; young shoots covered with glistening silvery scales, becoming glabrous and dark the second year. Leaves narrow-oblong or lanceolate, 1 to 312 in. long, 38 to 58 in. wide, dull green and scaly above, silvery scaly beneath. Flowers 38 in. long, fragrant, produced in early June, one to three in each leaf-axil of the young shoots. Each flower has a bell-shaped tube and four spreading lobes about as long as the tube; silvery outside like the undersurface of the leaves, yellow inside; stalk 112 in. long. Fruit oval, 12 in. long, yellowish, silvery scaly; flesh mealy, sweet.

Native of W. Asia, naturalised in S. Europe, cultivated in England since the sixteenth century. It is a striking tree, especially when associated with dark-leaved evergreens, because of the whiteness of the twigs and under-surface of the leaves. In this respect, however, it is not so remarkable as E. commutata, whose leaves are silvery on both sides, but it is a larger, better-shaped tree. A kind of sherbet is made from the fruit in the Orient. In Central Europe especially in the parks and gardens of Germany and Austria, it is much planted, and as the foliage is much whiter under the continental sun than it is in Britain, it often makes a very telling feature in the landscape. There is a fine specimen at Hardwicke Court, Glos., 37 ft high and 50 ft in diameter of spread, with a trunk 8 ft in girth at ground level (c. 1966).

var. orientalis (L.) O. Kuntze E. orientalis L. – Leaves ovate, shorter than in the type (112 to 3 in. long); they are not so glistening beneath and differ, too, in the presence of stellate down. Native of the Near East and Central Asia. Introduced in 1739. It does not flower so freely as the type and on the whole is not so desirable.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

There is now a clone of this species in commerce which has particularly silvery leaves and is claimed to be a rival to Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’. It has been identified as E. angustifolia var. caspica Sosn., described from plants growing in the eastern Caucasus, but this variety is not recognised in the Flora of the Soviet Union.

{var. orientalis}. – This is not recognised in Flora of Turkey nor in Flora of Cyprus, either as species or variety. It was originally described by Linnaeus as a species, from a sterile specimen collected somewhere in southwest Asia, which had leaves broader than in E. angustifolia as he had defined it and soft to the touch on both sides. But it is questionable whether width of leaf is of much taxonomic significance in this variable species, and a stellate-pubescent indumentum, to which the leaves of the type-specimen of E. orientalis owed their softness to the touch, is characteristic of sterile, juvenile and sucker growths of E. angustifolia (Meikle, Flora of Cyprus, Vol. II, pp. 1428-9 (1985)).



Other species in the genus