Native Elderberry is Sambucus Canadensis

One plant resource calls native Elderberry, Sambucus Canadensis, a multi-purpose plant, and indeed it is. The flowers feed pollinators, the berries feed birds, the shrubs provide habitat and humans have used the plant in dozens of ways for hundreds of years. 


Loaded with vitamins A, B and C plus some iron, the black, blue or red berries can be made into juice, concentrate, wine, jelly and medicinal concoctions. Although wildlife enjoys it, the raw fruit should not be consumed by humans. 

Elderflower water was on Victorian women’s dressing tables. They used it for baths and to maintain a soft complexion.  Elderflower tea was thought to calm the nerves, purify the blood, treat bronchitis and cure measles.

Commercially available Elderflower syrup is made from a flower extract. In Romania a beverage called socata is made by brewing the flowers with water, yeast and lemon, then fermenting it to create carbonation. Coca-Cola’s version is called Fanta Shokata.

Elderberries are made into syrup, jam, wine, chutney, fruit leather, salad dressing, muffins, and ketchup.

Driving around right now, large clumps of Elderberry Canadensis is noticeable along the side of the road because of the foot-wide flower heads. On sunny days the flowers are covered with pollinators from bees to butterflies. 

The native plants grow into large clumps. They are pest free and mostly disease free. Thanks to DNA testing, Elderberries are classified as Adoxaceae, and no longer classified as being honeysuckle relatives.

The native shrub is tall and scrubby and mostly grown in a back corner of the garden. Dozens of hybrids have been developed that provide plenty of flowers and fruit without the imposing size of Sambucus Canadensis. 

Online, the ornamental hybrids available include: York, Johns, Nourse,  Samdal, Samyl, Lemon Lace, Black Beauty, Blue, Variegated, Scotia, Black Lace, Nova Adams, European Red, Acutiloba, Maxima, Nova 1 and 2. The new types are said to have more fruit, better form and more attractive leaves.

Native Sambucus Canadensis hosts plenty of wildlife in our yard. We share roots and prune it every year to manage its size.

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