Elaeagnus pungens (Thorny Olive)
Thorny olive trees were introduced an an ornamental in the 1830s and now have spread all over the southeast. The seeds are dispersed by animals. It can grow under shade and in sun.
The tree grows densely with many short stems (almost like thorns). It can reach heights of 26' but usually grows much shorter - looking like a shrub. The foliage (2 - 4" long) is evergreen, dark green, oval-shaped, thick, wavy, and silvery-colored on the underside. The leaves grow alternately on the stem. Small white bell-shaped flowers grow in the fall. Fruits sometimes appear; if they do it will happen in the spring. They are red with brown scales and have a silvery appearance.
Photo credits (left to right): (olive photo) Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society, Bugwood.org; (leaves and shrub photos)
James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org