Botanical Name: Elaeagnus pungens
Species: E. pungens
Common names: Thorny olive, Spiny oleaster and Silverthorn; Elaeagnus, Thorny Elaeagnus, Oleaster, Silverberry, Silverthorn, Pungent Elaeagnus
Habitat: Elaeagnus pungensis native to Asia, including China and Japan. It grows on the sunny slopes, road sides and thickets in lowlands, usually below 1000 metres and especially by the sea.
Elaeagnus pungens is a dense, branching shrub which can reach over 7 metres (23 ft) tall by 4 metres (13 ft) wide. It sprouts prolifically from its stem, spreading out and twining into adjacent vegetation. Parts of the stem are covered in thorns which can be up to 8 centimetres (3.1 in) long. The evergreen, alternately-arranged leaves are up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) long but under 5 centimetres (2.0 in) wide. The undersides are silvery white with brown flecks. Tubular flowers are borne in clusters of up to three. The flowers are yellowish or white and are sweet-scented. The fruit is a drupe up to 1.5 centimetres (0.59 in) long which contains one seed. It is reddish with silver scales. Blooming occurs in the autumn and fruit develops during the spring. The plant grows quickly, with shoots growing over one meter per season. The growth has been described as “aggressive”, with shoots extending many meters into neighboring treetops. The seeds are dispersed by birds.
Despite its invasive potential, E. pungens is widely cultivated as a garden plant in temperate regions. It tolerates varied environmental conditions, including heat, cold, wind, coastal conditions, shade, and full sun. It is very drought-tolerant. It can grow in varied soil types, including those found at mine spoils. Numerous cultivars have been developed, especially for variegated foliage effects. Commercially available cultivars include ‘Maculata’, which has gold coloration on the leaves, as well as ‘Fruitlandii’, ‘Hosoba-Fukurin’ and ‘Goldrim’.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It should germinate freely within 4 weeks, though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage. It is best to take the cuttings in June. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year’s growth, 10 – 12cm with a heel, November in a frame. Leave for 12 months. Fair to good percentage. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months.
Fruits are edible, eaten – raw or cooked. About the size of a large blackcurrant, though the seed is also quite large. A nice sub-acid flavour when fully ripe but astringent if eaten before then. Can be made into preserves, drinks etc. Seeds are also eaten- raw or cooked. It can be eaten with the fruit though the seed case is rather fibrous. A taste vaguely reminiscent of peanuts. The seed contains 42.2% protein and 23.1% fat on a zero moisture bas
The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers. The leaves and the stems are concocted and used in the treatment of asthma, cough, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids etc. The seed is used to treat watery diarrhoea. The root is astringent and is applied to sores, itchy skin etc. Flowers have been reported to have astringent properties.
Plants can be grown as a hedge in exposed positions, tolerating maritime exposure. Succeeds when planted under trees that have become bare at the base, in time it will scramble up into the tree and fill out the bottom.
It can fix Nitrogen.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.