Red Elderberry


(Sambucus racemosa)

Red Elderberry fruit
© Matthieu Gauvain, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Red elderberry is a fruiting bush native to North America and Eurasia. Its usually a medium shrub but can grow into a tree up to 20ft high. Commonly found in riverbanks, moist Woodlands, thickets, or fence rows; it can be singular or form thickets, spreading by rhizomes.

Young branches are glabrous with pinnate compound leaves bearing 5 to 7 leaflets. Showy fragrant flower clusters in racemes (hence the name racemosa) appear from May to June and are pollinated by insects. Clusters Showy, edible, typically dark red Berry-like drupes follow flowering. These attract wildlife, have a bitter flavor when raw, but can be cooked and made into jams, desserts, and wine. The roots can be made into a tea and the bark, leaves, and blossoms can be used medicinally.

Red elderberry attracts birds, butterflies, tolerates air pollution, and tolerates heavy clay. It Prefers moist to wet well drained humus-loam and a neutral to slightly acidic ph. It can be vigorous once established. Some recommend hard pruning yearly in the spring for the best form and display of foliage.


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