About 45 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and small trees, often fast growing and with spiny stems. Leaves alternate, simple, lanceolate to ovate to oblong, often having minutely silvery or brown scales, especially below. Flowers small, often fragrant, without petals, 4-lobed petaloid calyx. Fruit is a fleshy 1-seeded drupe, edible. Native to Asia, southern Europe, with one species (E. commutata) in North America.
Elaeagnus: from Greek elaia, olive, and agnos, Greek name for Vitex agnus-castis. Another version is that Theophrastus used Elaeagnus to refer to a willow (Salix) with massed white fruit, from Greek helodes, growing in marshes, and hagnos, pure.