Shrub to 2 m tall, as wide as tall Leaves: alternate, elliptic to egg-shaped, covered with silver and brown scales beneath. Flowers: solitary or in pairs near leaf base, tubular calyx covered with silver and brown scales, the tube about the same length as calyx lobes, lacking petals, fragrant. Fruit: fleshy with an achene in the center, borne on a 1.5 - 2.5 cm stalk, red with few silver scales, 1 - 1.5 cm long. Twigs: reddish brown to gray with silver and brown scales.
Similar species: All species of the Elaeagnaceae family in the Chicago Region have silvery white leaves with non-toothed margins, flowers with a tubular calyx and no petals, and berry-like fruit. Shepherdia canadensis is a 1 - 3 m tall shrub with opposite leaves, while species of Elaeagnus have alternate leaves. Elaeagnus angustifolia is a shrub or tree reaching 10 m tall, has twigs with or without thorns, lance-shaped leaves silver on both surfaces, a yellow calyx center, and yellow fruit with silver scales. Elaeagnus umbellata is a 5.5 m tall shrub with often spiny twigs, elliptic to oblong-egg-shaped leaves with green upper and silver lower surfaces, a calyx tube longer than calyx lobes, and red fruit on a stalk to 1 cm long.
Habitat and ecology: Along roadsides or other open areas with varying soil conditions. This species is drought tolerant and has a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Occurence in the Chicago region: non-native
Notes: This species does not escape in the Chicago Region very often, but is becoming invasive in the eastern United States.
Etymology: Elaeagnus comes from the Greek words elaia, meaning olive, and agnos, meaning pure, referring to the resemblance of the fruit and foliage to a true olive, Olea sp. Multiflora comes from the Latin words for many-flowered.
Another e. Asian sp., also occasionally escapes. It differs from no. 3 [Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.] in its short hypanthium, ca equaling the sep, and in its larger fr, 1-1.5 cm on pedicels 1.5-2.5 cm. It is greener than E. umbellata, and fls a little earlier.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.