Medicinal Shrubs and Woody Vines: Elaeagnus, Autumn Olive or Oleaster


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,507 admin

    We have 3 species of Elaeagnus in BC, although only one is native.

    Elaeagnus commutata. Silverberry. It is also referred to as Wolf Willow here. I have found several references that say it is edible but not in my experience. The "berries" are very hard, even when ripe and there isn't much flesh around that very large seed. However, the flowers produce one of the most amazing scents imaginable. It took us awhile to figure out what exactly it was that was putting out that incredible smell. It didn't coincide with any other blossoms and the Silverberry blossoms are so small that you don't notice them flowering from a distance. One day we were in amongst a grove of them, while they were flowering. We could smell them but it took a few minutes for us to notice that it was these tiny flowers that were sooooo fragrant. I am told that First Nations used the hard berries as beads.

    The other two, E. umbellata and E. angustifolia, are landscape plants that tend to escape cultivation.

    We have two other members of the Elaeagnus family here, too. Both Shepherdia species. S. argentea (not common) and S. canadensis (very common). The latter, Soapberry, is a favourite amongst the First Nations in this area, where berries are whipped into a froth with sweetener added, known as Indian Ice Cream. Small amounts of the berries are added to water to make a type of "Gatorade". High in vitamins and electrolytes. The elders I walk with taught me to do this.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

    Very cool! Mostly we just have introduced autumn olive here, which I really like - def one invasive I don't mind.