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The Oleaster family consists of occasionally thorny shrubs and trees with alternate or opposite leaves, often silvery in appearance due to the presence of minute hairs. Some species have small orange dots under the leaves. Several members of this family especially prosper in valley bottoms where the soil surface remains dry, but the water table is not far below. The flowers are regular and mostly bisexual, but sometimes dioecious, with male and female flowers appearing on separate plants. There are 4 united sepals but 0 petals. There are 4 stamens in Elaeagnus and 8 in Shepherdia. The ovary is positioned partly or wholly inferior, consisting of one carpel (unicarpellate). The fruit looks like a drupe (a berry with a stony seed), but in this case the ovary matures as an achene (dry seed), and the fleshy fruit is really the swollen calyx (the sepals). The gray or red-orange fruits will help to identify this family. Worldwide, there are 3 genera and 50 species, all native to the northern hemisphere.
Key Words: Shrubs or trees often with silvery leaves and gray or red-orange fruits.
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