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(Oleaster family)


• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: There is little evidence of use of these plants in Western traditional medicine, but extracts of the fruit and seed and also the expressed seed oil from Hippophae rhamnoides L. are used in cosmetic preparations as skin conditioning agents. However, these preparations are used in the traditional medicine of countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Far East for wound healing. •
• Adverse effects: Sharp spines capable of inflicting mechanical injury are present on the branches of some members of this family. At least one of the species may also elicit a "pseudophytodermatitis" if infested with caterpillars of the browntail moth or related tussock moths bearing urticating hairs. •
• Veterinary aspects: The root of one species has been used to prepare a decoction for application to sores on dogs and horses. •

This family comprises about 45 species of shrubs and small trees in 3 genera, which are to be found in temperate and warm regions in the northern hemisphere and also in tropical Asia and in Australia. The genus Elaeagnus L. accounts for about 40 of the species (Mabberley 2017).

A number are cultivated as ornamentals or as hedge plants. A few are cultivated for their edible fruit. These include Elaeagnus angustifolia L., which provides the Russian olive or Trebizond date; Elaeagnus conferta Roxb., which provides the malindo, muslerhi, or wild olive; Elaeagnus multiflora Thunb., which provides the goumi, gumi, or cherry silverberry; Elaeagnus philippensis Perry, which provides the lingaro; and Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb. ex Murray, which provides the autumn olive or Russian olive.

Elaeagnus Tourn. ex L.

This is a genus of shrubs and small trees. Spines are a feature of a number of species including the following (Qin & Gilbert 2007):

Elaeagnus conferta Roxb.
Elaeagnus davidii Franch.
Elaeagnus grijsii Hance
Elaeagnus longiloba C.Y.Chang
Elaeagnus magna Rehder
[syn. Elaeagnus umbellata subsp. magna Servett.]
Elaeagnus nanchuanensis C.Y.Chang
Elaeagnus pallidiflora C.Y.Chang
Elaeagnus retrostyla C.Y.Chang
Elaeagnus sarmentosa Rehder in Sarg.
Elaeagnus viridis Servett. 

Elaeagnus angustifolia L.
[syns Elaeagnus hortensis M.Bieb., Elaeagnus oxycarpa Schltdl., Elaeagnus spinosa L., etc.]
Oleaster, Russian Olive, Russian Silverberry, Sharp-Fruited Oleaster, Trebizond Date, Trebizond Grape, Olivier de Bohême, Schmalblättrige Ölweide

Hunt (1968/70) and Polunin (1969) noted that this species has spiny branches.

The fresh leaves ground in olive oil are reportedly a traditional Iranian wound healing remedy. Derakhshanfar & Oloumi (2004) investigated the effect of this remedy on the healing of experimental wounds in calves and observed an enhancement in the rate of healing in treated wounds when compared to controls.

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Elaeagnus bockii Diels

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Elaeagnus multiflora Thunb.
[syn. Elaeagnus longipes A.Gray]
Cherry Elaeagnus, Cherry Silverberry, Goumi du Japon, Reichblütige Ölweide

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Elaeagnus pungens Thunb.
[syn. Elaeagnus obtusa C.Y.Chang]
Natsu Gumi, Pungent Elaeagnus, Silverberry, Silverthorn, Spotted Elaeagnus, Thorny Elaeagnus, Thorny Olive

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Elaeagnus × reflexa É.Morren & Decne.

[Information available but not yet included in database]

Hippophae L.

Some authorities prefer to use the form Hippophaë for the genus name. The genus comprises about 5 species of shrubs and small trees (Mabberley 2008). Spines are a feature of most, including the following (Qin & Gilbert 2007):

Hippophae goniocarpa Y.S.Lian et al. ex Swenson & Bartish
Hippophae litangensis Y.S.Lian & Xue L.Chen ex Swenson & Bartish
Hippophae neurocarpa S.W.Liu & T.N.He
Hippophae tibetana Schldl. 

Hippophae rhamnoides L.
[syns Hippophae littoralis Salisb., Hippophae rhamnoidea St.-Lag.]
Sea Buckthorn, Sallow Thorn, Argousier, Sanddorn

Polunin (1969) described this species as a much-branched spiny shrub. It is grown both as a wind-break in seaside gardens needing protection from salt-laden breezes, and as an impenetrable hedge where a degree of security is required.

The sea buckthorn is listed by Blair (1979) as one of the plants upon which browntail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea L., fam. Erebidae) caterpillars feed. Chinery (1976) noted that both the caterpillars and the fully developed adults of these and other so-called tussock moths are generally very hairy, the hairs often being barbed and irritating, this making both the moths and the caterpillars unpleasant to handle. De Jong et al. (1975) described cases of vacationers camping in Holland who developed dermatitis from the urticating hairs of the caterpillars of the browntail moth on sea buckthorn. They concluded from their studies that the urticating activity of the hairs was the result of a mechanical effect acting together with a chemical effect arising from the injection of a toxin, which they later characterised (Bleumink et al. 1982) as a complex mixture containing two or three serine proteases with kallikrein-like activity. Blair (1979) provides an overview of the clinical features in 36 patients of the rash produced by the missile-like urticating hairs shed by the caterpillars. Browntail moth dermatitis has been recognised in the literature since at least 1897 (Anon 1907). Envenomation by the caterpillars is termed erucism; envenomation by the adult moths is termed lepidopterism. The clinical symptoms in affected persons can be described as a pseudophytodermatitis where the dermatitis occurs as a consequence of an encounter with the particular plant hosting the caterpillars, or possibly with a fomite such as the fur of a cat.

[Further information available but not yet included in database]

Shepherdia argentea Nutt.
[syns Elaeagnus utilis A.Nelson, Hippophae argentea Pursh]
Silver Buffaloberry, Thorny Buffaloberry

[Information available but not yet included in database]


  • Anon (1907) The Sixth International Dermatological Congress. The Lancet 170(4390): 1121 [doi] [url]
  • Blair CP (1979) The browntail moth, its caterpillar and their rash. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 4(2): 215-222 [doi] [url] [url-2] [pmid]
  • Bleumink E, De Jong MCJM, Kawamoto F, Meyer GT, Kloosterhuis AJ, Slijper-Pal IJ (1982) Protease activities in the spicule venom of Euproctis caterpillars. Toxicon 20(3): 607-613 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Chinery M (1976) A Field Guide to the Insects of Britain and Northern Europe, 2nd edn. London: William Collins [WorldCat]
  • De Jong MCJM, Bleumink E, Nater JP (1975) Investigative studies of the dermatitis caused by the larva of the brown-tail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea Linn.) I. Clinical and experimental findings. Archives of Dermatological Research 253(3): 287-300 [doi] [url] [pmid]
  • Derakhshanfar A, Oloumi MM (2004) The role of a fresh oleaster leaf preparation in healing of experimental wounds in calves: a histopathologic study. Veterinary Dermatology 15(Suppl 1): 40 [doi] [url] [url-2]
  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Mabberley DJ (2017) Mabberley's Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of plants, their classification and uses, 4th edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press [WorldCat] [doi] [url]
  • Polunin O (1969) Flowers of Europe. London: Oxford University Press [WorldCat]
  • Qin H, Gilbert MG (2007) ELAEAGNACEAE. In: Wu Z, Raven PH (Eds) Flora of China. Clusiaceae through Araliaceae, Vol. 13, pp. 251-273. St Louis, MO: Missouri Botanical Garden Press [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • [ + 22 further references not yet included in database]

Richard J. Schmidt

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