Herb: Silverberry

Latin name: Elaeagnus commutata

Synonyms: Elaeagnus argentea

Family: Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster Family)

Medicinal use of Silverberry:

A strong decoction of the bark, mixed with oil, has been used as a salve for children with frostbite. A decoction of the roots, combined with sumac roots (Rhus spp.), has been used in the treatment of syphilis. This medicine was considered to be very poisonous and, if you survived it, you were likely to become sterile. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Description of the plant:


3 m
(9 3/4 foot)



Habitat of the herb:

Dry calcareous slopes.

Edible parts of Silverberry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Dry and mealy. Good when added to soups they also make an excellent jelly. The fruit must be fully ripe before it can be enjoyed raw, if even slightly under-ripe it will be quite astringent. The fruit contains a single large seed. Seed - raw or cooked. It can be eaten with the fruit though the seed case is rather fibrous.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants can be grown as a hedge in exposed positions, tolerating maritime exposure. They have a rather open habit, however, and so do not afford a lot of wind protection. Because they fix atmospheric nitrogen, they enrich the soil and so make a very good companion hedge in orchards etc. The fibrous bark is used in weaving, it has been twisted to make strong ropes and has also been used to make blankets and clothing. Dried fruits are used as beads. The berries have been used to make a soap.

Propagation of Silverberry:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. It should germinate in late winter or early spring, though it may take 18 months. Stored seed can be very slow to germinate, often taking more than 18 months. A warm stratification for 4 weeks followed by 12 weeks cold stratification can help. The seed usually (eventually) germinates quite well. Prick out the seedlings into individual pot as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant out when they are at least 15cm tall. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 10 - 12cm with a heel, October/November in a frame. The cuttings are rather slow and difficult to root, leave them for 12 months. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months. Division of suckers during the dormant season. The larger suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions, but it is probably best to pot up smaller suckers and grow them on in a cold frame until they are established.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry calcareous slopes.

Known hazards of Elaeagnus commutata:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.