Elaeagnus pungens


Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 2 Invasive

Species Overview

Native to: China and Japan

In the early 1800’s Elaeagnus pungens, or silverthorn, was introduced as an ornamental plant. It is used in the United States as a landscape plant, often grown as an evergreen hedge and barrier and is regularly planted along highways. However, it ranks as invasive in the UF IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in FL’s Natural Areas and is not recommended as a suitable landscape plant.

Species Characteristics

Family: Elaeagnaceae

Habit: evergreen shrub that may grow 3 to 25 feet in height, can also take the form of a climbing plant growing over and shading out other plants.

Leaves: alternate, oval to elliptical, with irregular wavy margins and silvery surfaces, 2-4 in. (5.1-10.2 cm) in length and thick.

Flowers: axillary clusters of small, sweet-smelling, white to brown blossoms.

Fruit/seeds: rare, but small, red, and dotted with small brown scales and containing 1 seed.

Distribution in Florida: Panhandle, into the central peninsula.


A high shade, drought, and salt tolerance allows Elaeagnus pungens to invade both open areas and under forest canopies. The seeds are dispersed by animals, giving this plant the potential for rapid spread. It also climbs into tree canopies displacing native plants. 

Control Methods

Preventive Measures

Do not plant.


Remove plants prior to seed production but note that sharp spur shoots can make cutting and physical removal hazardous. Revegetate natural areas with native species.


Aggressive tillage and/or mowing is an option whenever possible.  Repeat as needed to control regrowth. 


Silverthorn has very few pests or diseases in landscapes. There are no known biological agents.


Foliar applications of imazapyr or glyphosate with a surfactant in water have been used to treat silverthorn. Triclopyr as a 20% solution in a petroleum base with a penetrant can be used for upper stem treatments, as well as to young bark as a basal spray. Large stems can be cut and stumps treated immediately with imazapyr (10% solution), triclopyr (50% solution) or glyphosate (20% solution) in water with a surfactant. Basal bark: 15% Garlon 4. Reach out to your local UF IFAS Extension for assistance with management. Additional management recommendations can be found in the EDIS Publication Integrated Management of Non-Native Plants in Natural Areas of Florida.

Learn more about this species

UF IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas

Atlas of Florida Plants


USDA Plant Database

Invasive Species Compendium

View records and images from University of Florida Herbarium