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 31⁄2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 5⁄8 in. wide, dull green and scaly above, silvery scaly beneath. Flowers 3⁄8 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 1⁄12 in. long. Fruit oval, 1⁄2 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 (11⁄2 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.