Syst. Veg. ed. 14, 164. 1784.
Shrubs or trees, 2–5 m, clonal. Stems armed, dark gray-scaly or reddish. Leaves evergreen, leathery; petiole woody; blade broadly elliptic, (3.5–)4–8(–10) × 1.5–2.5 cm, margins wavy, surfaces with silvery scales, more densely pubescent and silver-green abaxially, glabrous and lustrous dark green or dull silver-green adaxially. Flowers 2–4 in clusters; hypanthium broadly flared, 2–3 mm distal to constriction; calyx white or cream, 6 mm, glabrous; nectary disc inconspicuous. Fruits reddish or red-brown, oblong, 8–12 mm, somewhat fleshy, sparsely lepidote, scales brown with silver margins.
Phenology: Flowering Apr, Sep–Oct.
Habitat: Sandy soils.
Elevation: 0–500 m.
Introduced; Ala., D.C., Fla., Ga., Ky., La., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tenn., Va., W.Va., Asia (China, Japan).
Flowers of Elaeagnus pungens have a sweet gardenia-like fragrance that attracts butterflies and its fruits are favored by birds. It forms clumps that are broader than tall, with canes that often grow into neighboring shrubs and vines. Plants grow prolifically and can be propagated by cuttings. It has become invasive in some areas. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council has placed it in the category of invasive exotics that have increased in abundance or frequency but have not yet altered Florida plant communities.
Cultivars vary in growth form and color: ‘Fruitlandii’ forms large bluish green mounds; ‘Maculata’ has large leaves with bright yellow variegations and blotches; and ‘Marginata’ has leaves with silvery-white margins. The leaves are distinctive with their leathery texture, wavy margins, and thick petioles. Most cultivars are thornless. Because these plants form large, vigorous clones, they are not recommended for small properties (M. A. Dirr 2009).