Common Elderberry
Sambucus canadensis
Family Caprifoliaceae

* Leaves large, compound, 4-11", with 5-11 coarse toothed, elliptical leaflets.
* Flowers small, white, in flat-topped clusters.
* Fruits juicy, purple-black berries.
* Buds small, green or brown. Twigs stout and hollow.
* Height: 3-13'.

Natural History:
* Flowers June - July.
* Fruits August - October.
* Habitat: Thickets.
* Range: Southeastern Canada, Eastern United States.
* Native.

* All parts of the elderberry plant contain hydrocyanic acid, but that doesn't deter 43 species of birds from eating the fruits, which also contain vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, and potassium.

* Humans make jam, jelly, wine, and pies out of elderberries, as well as drying the fruits for later use. Try making elderberry jelly yourself! Gather the berries soon after they ripen or the birds will have eaten them all.

* The genus name Sambucus supposedly comes from the sambuke or sambuca, an ancient reed instrument carved from elderberry branches. Hollowed twigs were also used for taps to tap sugar maples for sap. Crushed elderberry bark was used by several Indian tribes as an insect repellant, because of its foul odor.

* In winter, look for vertical, zipperlike scars on elderberry bark; they are the locations of black-horned tree cricket eggs.

* Elderberry plants can be found on the Wellesley campus near the red maple swamp by Paramecium Pond.


Created by: Allaire Diamond and Jiasuey Hsu
Maintained by: Nick Rodenhouse
Created: July 31, 1998
Last Modified: November 21, 2008