- Common Name(s):
- American elder, American elderberry, Elderberry
- Rubra , Aurea
- Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Sambucus canadensis, commonly called American elder, is native to eastern North America. It is a deciduous, somewhat sprawling, suckering shrub that typically grows to 5-12’ tall. It typically occurs on streambanks, moist woodlands, thickets, fence rows and roadsides. Its bark is smooth and brown becoming shallowly furrowed and rough with age.
It can be pruned back severely every few years to keep in bounds. lt spreads by suckers, and can be found in forest or natural areas in moist, open woods, weedy in disturbed areas in fields, roadsides, and ditches. Plants can be vigorous growers and may need more management to control.
Regions: Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal plains
Seasons of Interest:
Leaf: Fall Blooms: Spring/summer Nut/Fruit/Seed: Late summer
Wildlife Value: This plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer. Butterflies and other insects are attracted to the blooms. Its fruits are eaten by many species of songbirds.
Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: This plant has no serious insect or disease problems. It has some susceptibility to canker, powdery mildew, leaf spot, borers, spider mites and aphids. Its branches are susceptible to damage from high winds or from heavy snow/ice in winter. Plants will spread by root suckers.
- 5-12 ft.
- The American elderberry has opposite, course, compound dark green leaves, 5 to 11 leaflets, sharply serrated. It shows a yellow-green fall color.
- The American elderberry has tiny lemon-scented white flowers that appear in large flat-topped clusters (cymes to 10” across) in June. The flowers give way to clusters of black elderberry fruits (drupes) in late summer. Fruits of species plants are sometimes used to make jams, jellies, pie filings and elderberry wine. Fruits are attractive to wildlife. American elder (Sambucus canadensis) and European elder (Sambucus nigra) are closely related plants. The Royal Horticultural Society currently lists American elder as Sambucus nigra var. canadensis.
- 4 to 9
- The American elderberry grows best in medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. It tolerates a wide range of soils, but prefers moist, humusy ones. It spreads by root suckers to form colonies. Prune suckers as they appear unless naturalizing. A large number of late winter pruning options include (a) pruning out dead or weakened stems, (b) shortening one year stems or (c) cutting back to the ground to rejuvenate. Some horticulturists recommend a hard spring pruning for maintaining best foliage and habit.
- Loose open habit; multi-stemmed; arching, spreading branches; unkept appearance
- Sun; moist soil but tolerates dry sites
- Flat cluster of creamy white flower in summer; edible purplish black fruit
- USA, NC
- Poison Part:
- Leaves, twigs (stems), roots, unripe fruits.
- Poison Delivery Mode:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coma.
- EDIBLE PARTS: Cooked berries edible in pies, pancakes, and jellies; flowers and fruits used in wine making. SAFE HANDLING PROCEDURES: When flowers are open, pick whole clusters and dip in pancake batter and fry, or dip in pancake batter and fry as fritters. Elderberry juice can be used as a cold drink. SOURCE: Peterson, L. 1978/ A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 330 pp.
- Toxic Principle:
- Cyanogenic glycoside and alkaloid.
- CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN.
- Found in:
- Forest or natural areas in moist, open woods; weedy in disturbed areas in fields, roadsides, ditches.
- 5-12 ft.
NCCES plant id: 553