Elaeagnus pungens
Midwest Noxious Weed: Do Not Plant

Common Name: thorny olive 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Elaeagnaceae
Native Range: Japan
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 12.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 18.00 feet
Bloom Time: October to November
Bloom Description: Creamy white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Air Pollution
This plant is listed as a noxious weed in one or more Midwestern states outside Missouri and should not be moved or grown under conditions that would involve danger of dissemination.


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-9 where it is easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Also tolerates shade. Best in light, sandy loams. Established plants are very drought tolerant. This is a vigorous, fast-growing shrub that tolerates a wide variety of soils including poor infertile ones. Avoid wet, poorly drained soils. May spread by suckering. May self seed in the garden. Plants have shown some invasive tendencies (animals and birds help disperse seed) by escaping into natural areas in the southeastern U.S. Best propagated by cuttings. If planted in areas where growth needs to be restrained, this shrub requires constant pruning to keep it in bounds.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Elaeagnus pungens, commonly called thorny elaeagnus or silverthorn, is native to China and Japan. It is a large, sprawling, durable, broad-leaved evergreen shrub that typically grows to 12-15' tall. Young branchlets are covered with brown scales. Branchlets are usually spiny. Wavy-margined, elliptic to oblong leaves (to 3.5" long) are lustrous green above but silvery-white and dotted with tiny brown scales below. Small, apetalous, bell-shaped, creamy white flowers (to 1/4" long) bloom in axillary clusters in late fall (October-November). Flowers are not particularly showy, but are intensely fragrant (some suggest gardenia-scented). Small, one-seeded, reddish-brown fruits (drupes to 1/2" long) typically ripen in spring (late March-May). Fruits are technically edible, but perhaps best left for the birds.

The genus name Elaeagnus comes from the Greek words elaia meaning "olive tree" and agnos meaning "chaste" or "pure".

Specific epithet means sharp-pointed in reference to the sharp thorny spines found on this species.

Common names are also in reference to the spines.


No serious insect or disease problems. Fungal leaf spot and rust may occur. Watch for spider mites. Although a shrub, it has climbing tendencies (long branchless shoots from the top of the shrub, if not pruned off, can attach to overhead trees).


This is a large shrub which needs a large area in which to grow. Background plant. Screen, barrier or windbreak. Hedge. Accent in shrub border. Along highways. Erosion control.