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A deciduous shrub 6 to 12 ft high, of thin, erect habit, with rather slender branches; spreading by underground suckers; young shoots covered with reddish glistening scales. Leaves oval to narrowly ovate, 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 in. long, 3⁄4 to 11⁄2 in. wide, wedge-shaped at the base, rounded or pointed at the apex, both surfaces white and lustrous with silvery scales; stalk 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers produced during May in great profusion in the leaf-axils of the young twigs, often three in each axil; they are drooping, 1⁄2 in. long, with a stalk 1⁄8 in. long; narrow tubular, shining and silvery outside, yellow on the inside of the four pointed lobes; very fragrant. Fruit roundish, egg-shaped, silvery, 1⁄3 in. long, with a dry, mealy flesh, said to be edible. Bot. Mag., t. 8369.
The only species native of N. America, reaching from the Hudson Bay Territory and British Columbia to the Central United States; introduced in 1813. This shrub is one of the most striking of those with silvery foliage, and when laden with its yellow, delightfully fragrant flowers, few others are more pleasing. It is increased by taking off the sucker growths by which it spreads. There is a great confusion in gardens and nurseries between this plant and Shepherdia argentea, which seems to have existed in Loudon’s time. Loudon does not seem to have known the true plant. There is one simple distinction between them: Elaeagnus has alternate leaves, Shepherdia opposite ones. The latter, moreover, is far from being as fine a shrub.