Also known as common elderberry, this plant has a loose, graceful form and year-round interest. It’s a valuable and lovely addition to the landscape thanks to its lush foliage, sprays of hundreds of tiny white flowers, and purple- black fruit that attracts a wide variety of wildlife.
Commonly found along streams and rivers, lakeshores, meadows, marshes, moist forests, and in disturbed areas along roadsides and in forests. Often used as a specimen plant or in shrub borders, by streams and ponds, along fencerows and edges of wooded areas, or in naturalized areas. Spreads by suckers and grows quickly to form colonies. Ideal for sprawling hedges/screens or as erosion control in moist sites.
Tolerant of proximity to black walnut trees.
Grows 5–12’ tall and wide.
Will grow in full to part sun; maximum growth and best fruiting in full sun.
Grows in a variety of soils (rich clay, sand, loam) with average to medium moisture. Intolerant to standing water and drought.
Green compound leaves are up to 12” long. Fall color is yellowish green.
Many long stems arise from the base, arching at the top. Young woody branches are light grayish brown with scattered lenticels. Older stems are hollow, creating over-wintering sites for native bees. Spent stems are best left standing through fall and winter, not removing until temperatures warm to the 60's for approximately one week, which allows them to emerge..
Elderberry hosts 33 lepidoptera larvae, including some of our showiest moths: white-lined sphinx, imperial, polyphemous, and North America’s largest moth, the cecropia. The fruit is eaten by box turtles, mammals, and as many as 45 species of birds, including eastern bluebirds, northern cardinals, cedar waxwings, and mockingbirds. Deer browse the branches. As elderberry matures and ages, canes die, providing critical overwintering sites for our native bees in its hollow stem.
Medicinal, Edible and other Uses:
Elderberry extract has antiviral properties and powerful antioxidants. The flowers are used to make wine, cordials, teas, and syrups. The berries, which are toxic unless cooked, are used to make jellies, pies, cough syrups, and extracts.
The berries, flowers, leaves, and inner bark were used in traditional medicine and to make dyes for basketry, and all parts of the plant have multiple medicinal and religious uses for Native Americans. Crushed leaves make an effective insect repellent. Elderberry’s hollow stems are used to make flutes, whistles, and blowguns.
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