Shrubs or small trees, often spiny and with a covering of silver, gold or brown scales or starshaped hairs. Leaves alternate or whorled (opposite in Shepherdia), simple, entire, leathery; stipules absent. Flowers bisexual, regular, occasionally unisexual or polygamodioecious, solitary or in small clusters. Sepals mostly (2-)4(-8), edge to edge in bud, often petal-like. Petals absent. Stamens attached in throat, alternating with and once or twice the number of sepals. Lobed nectary disk in the throat. Ovary superior, 1 chamber with 1 ovule, 1 style. Fruit a berry- or drupe-like achene containing a single seed.

This family is often considered closely related to the Proteaceae, with reduced or absent petals and a single carpel.

Grown mostly as hedges and as border plants for the unusual silver- and gold-scaled foliage. Shepherdia argentea (Pursh.) Nuttall, Silver Buffalo Berry, from N America, is occasionally grown for its silvery leaves and red and yellow berries. Hippophae rhamnoides L., Sea Buckthorn, from Eurasia, is resistant to salt spray and is occasionally grown as a shrub or small tree for the unusual narrow grey leaves and yellow fruits.

3 genera and about 50 species from temperate and warm northern hemisphere, S Asia and Australia (1 species in N Australia), mostly from coastal and steppe regions.

Fruits of some species are edible, those of some Shepherdia species being used to make jellies, preserves or eaten dry, smoked or as a sauce. The wood of H. rhamnoides is sometimes used commercially.

Plants generally covered with silvery or golden scales.

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Elaeagnaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 3. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 2. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Rosanae
order      Rosales
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
genus        Elaeagnus L.