Sunday, October 6, 2013

An unknown Eleagnus: SOLVED!


I need some help. I found a shrub on the same hike I was taking when I found yesterday's scary cactus.

I'm 99.9% sure this is an Eleagnus:

It has the same strange shape to the new growth, it has leaves that are a weird color underneath them (a rich brown, not silver like some of the other eleagnus varieties), it bears fruit with a single pit and it was growing in poor soil but still exhibited good green growth, meaning it's probably fixing its own nitrogen.

Look at more pictures:

My problem is, I can't nail down WHAT Eleagnus this is. It's not a silverthorn, an autumn olive or a Russian olive since the fruit were black. Is it perhaps a rare native? A new invasive?

There were multiple bushes scattered across the sandy scrub where I was hiking. I ate some of the berries and they were delicious - a lot like raisins in flavor, with a large pit.

Here's what the berries looked like:

Notice how they're rounder than the other Eleagnus fruits - and they don't have the silver or gold "sparkles" on them.

Anyone have any idea what this could be? I ate a bunch of berries without getting sick, so I'm reasonably certain it's not poisonous. (Kids - don't try this at home!)

Whatever it is, it would make a great addition to a food forest.


B.A. e-mailed me a tip that it might be Reynosia septentrionalis. The fruit is right, but the leaves and growth are not quite the same as the photos I've found.

In the comments, Misti suggests Ilex glabra. Close, but the fruit and leaves don't quite match. No pucker on the end of these fruits.


B.A. e-mailed me two more suggestions.

Those still weren't quite it, but they were two more plants I've never encountered. I'm getting quite an education. The thing that stands out on this particular plant are the brown leaf bottoms.
Finally, I got my answer in an e-mail today (Sunday) from Bunny with the Florida Native Plant Society.
"Hi David,
I was looking for information about Seminole Pumpkins (or something?) when I got sidetracked checking out your blog. I belong to the Florida Native Plant Society, which makes me an expert at nothing. But your Unknown Eleagnus does look familiar to me. I believe it might be a Tough Bully (Sideroxylon tenax) or a Florida Bully (Sideroxylon reclinatum), which are both found in your area. I often use the Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants to check plants out. It has pictures and good information. Heres the link for Sideroxylon. See what you think. By the way, your painting of sweet potatoes is really nice!
She likes my paintings... and she can ID obscure edibles. Hard to beat that.

So - this is it! Check it out:

The plant is NOT an Eleagnus at all - it's a "Tough bully." (The worst type of bully, if you ask me... I prefer the weak ones that buckle after you throw your first punch), also known more scientifically as Sideroxylon tenax.

Fortunately, it's not poisonous. Unlike the other options, this guy matches on fruit, leaves, growth and everything. It's also a dead ringer for an Eleagnus, strangely enough. Here are some photos from that link:

Fantastic. Thank you, Bunny - and all the rest of you that sent in suggestions. Sapotaceae family. Nice.

We're smarter together than apart. :)


At October 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM , Blogger jean said...

I'm stumped.

At October 2, 2013 at 12:59 PM , Blogger Misti said...

Try Ilex glabra.

At October 3, 2013 at 9:44 AM , Blogger Misti said...

Yeah, I was 100% on the I. glabra but it was worth a trick. What natural area was it in? (Just found your blog while looking for permaculture. I lived in Florida for 8 years, mostly in south Florida, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.)

At October 3, 2013 at 9:44 AM , Blogger Misti said...

*wasn't* 100%

At October 3, 2013 at 1:03 PM , Blogger Brad said...

Black Chokeberry

At November 1, 2013 at 10:56 PM , Blogger Ryan Leavengood said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At November 1, 2013 at 10:58 PM , Blogger Ryan Leavengood said...

This makes a nice landscape plant actually. Obviously the leaves are pretty and it provides good cover for wildlife as well as food. It is quite drought tolerant as well.

I'm in South Florida but have been looking for seed for this to grow a few specmens. If you saved any seed let me know. I also sent you an email with an offer of seeds I have which I think you will want.


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