, known as Silverberry or Oleaster, is a genus of about 50–70 species of
flowering plants in the Elaeagnaceae. The vast majority of the species are native to
temperate and subtropical regions of Asia, with one species (E. triflora) extending
south into northeastern Australia, and another species (E. commutata) restricted to
North America. A third species (E. angustifolia) may also be native in
southeasternmost Europe, though it may be an early human introduction there.
They are deciduous or evergreen shrubs or small trees with alternate leaves. The leaves
and shoots are usually covered with tiny silvery to brownish scales, giving the plants a
whitish to grey-brown colour from a distance. The flowers are small, with a four-lobed
calyx and no petals; they are often fragrant. The fruit is a fleshy drupe containing a
single seed; it is edible in many species, though generally lacking a good flavour.
Several species are cultivated for their fruit, including E. angustifolia, E. umbellata and
E. multiflora (gumi). Although they are cultivated more in China than elsewhere, they
are growing in popularity in the rest of the world.
E. umbellata is reputed to have a high amount of the carotenoid antioxidant, lycopene
and has been shown to display antioxidant properties effective against cancer
mechanisms in vitro. E. multiflora is among the nutraceutical plants that Chinese use
both for food and medicine. Both berries are small, but tasty and
Elaeagnus species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species
including Coleophora elaeagnisella and the gothic moths.