Many taxa in this genus are separated only by quantitative characters, and better information on population variation is likely to lead to a significant reduction in the number of species recognized. Indeed, recent studies (Du, Fl. Yunnan. 12: 749-776. 2006) suggest that some species of Elaeagnus should be combined[
Elaeagnus gonyanthes is an unarmed, evergreen shrub with stems that can be 4 metres or more long, often climbing into the surrounding vegetation[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food.
E. Asia - southern China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, and Yunnan).
Mountain forests; at elevations below 1,000 metres[
]. Wet valleys, streamside, montane forests or road sides; at elevations from 150 - 1,900 metres.
Elaeagnus gonyanthes is native to the warm temperate and subtropical regions of southern China. It is unlikely to succeed outdoors outside of the mildest regions of the temperate zone.
Succeeds in most soils that are well-drained[
]. Prefers a soil that is only moderately fertile, succeeding in poor soils and dry soils[
]. Requires a sunny position[
] (but if it is an evergreen it should be shade tolerant). Tolerates maritime exposure.
This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[
This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil bacteria, these bacteria form nodules on the roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[
]. An excellent companion plant, when grown in orchards it can increase yields from the fruit trees by up to 10%.
Fruit - raw or cooked[
]. The fruit is up to 22mm long and is yellowish-red when fully ripe[
]. 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.
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[
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, mid summer in a frame.
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, 10 - 12cm with a heel, autumn in a frame[
]. The cuttings are rather slow and difficult to root, leave them for 12 months[
Layering in September/early autumn. Takes 12 months[