Plant DetailShow Menu

Sambucus canadensis is often confused with:
Sambucus nigra Sambucus nigra 'Variegata'
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Itea virginica Itea virginica
Viburnum nudum Viburnum nudum
Viburnum acerifolium viburnum acerifolium

Sambucus canadensis

Previously known as:

  • Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis
Phonetic Spelling
sam-BOO-kus kan-ah-DEN-sis
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

American Elderberry is a shrub that may grow 9 to 12 feet tall. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound (5 to 11 leaflets) with a toothed margin. The bark is smooth and brown becoming shallowly furrowed and rough with age. In summer, small, white flowers are borne in dense, flat-topped clusters. The tall shrub produces a purple-black drupe that matures in late summer. Fruit, like flowers, are borne in dense, flat-topped clusters.

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 the best foliage and habit. More than one genetic strain needed for fruit set.

Habitat: Streambanks, thickets, marshes, moist forests, disturbed areas

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

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.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aurea'
  • 'Rubra'
Tags:
#fragrant#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#songbirds#poisonous#rain garden#wildlife plant#showy#weedy#native shrub#riparian#wetlands#playground#food source#low flammability#NC native#dye plant#fire resistant#edible garden#food source summer#butterfly#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft-mast fruit
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aurea'
  • 'Rubra'
Tags:
#fragrant#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#songbirds#poisonous#rain garden#wildlife plant#showy#weedy#native shrub#riparian#wetlands#playground#food source#low flammability#NC native#dye plant#fire resistant#edible garden#food source summer#butterfly#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft-mast fruit
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sambucus
    Species:
    canadensis
    Family:
    Adoxaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Edible fruit when cooked. The twigs and fruit of Elderberry have been used to create dyes for basketry.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America, Venezuela and Brazil
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Butterflies and other insects are attracted to the blooms. Its fruits are eaten by mammals and many species of songbirds, including the western bluebird, indigo bunting, common house finch, red-shafted flicker, ash-throated flycatcher, black-headed grosbeak, scrub jay, Stellar jay, ruby-crowned kinglet, mockingbird, red-breasted nuthatch, Bullock’s oriole, hooded oriole, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, western tanager, California thrasher, russet-backed thrush, brown towhee, Audubon warbler, cedar waxwing, Lewis and Nuttall's woodpecker, wren-tit, grouse, pheasant, and pigeons.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to heat, drought, and soil compaction.
    Edibility:
    Cooked berries edible in pies, pancakes, and jellies; flowers and fruits used in winemaking. Avoid washing the flowers since it removes their sweet flavor. Use flowers to make a syrup to use in drinks, marmalade, yogurt, and desserts. 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.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 9 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Multi-stemmed
    Open
    Spreading
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Purple/Lavender
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Clusters of edible, purplish-black drupes display from June to August. Fruits of elderberry species are used to make jams, jellies, pie fillings and wine.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    6 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Tiny, lemon-scented, creamy-white flowers that appear in large flat-topped clusters (cymes to 10” across) from April to July.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately)
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The American elderberry has opposite, course, compound dark green leaves, 5 to 11 leaflets, sharply serrated. It shows a yellow-green fall color.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    smooth and brown becoming shallowly furrowed and rough with age
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Flowering Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coma
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Cyanogenic glycoside and alkaloid
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits
    Leaves
    Roots
    Stems