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Elderberry Tree

Ningthoujam Sandhyarani May 12, 2019
Elderberry tree produces fragrant, white-colored blooms in the spring or mid summer. The popularity of this tree is attributed to its lovely flowers, nutritious berries, and useful plant parts. Read ahead some facts and information about this tree.
The elderberry is a versatile shrub, grown for ornamental purposes as well as for its edible fruits. According to the type of cultivar, it is known by varying common names like elder, common elder, European elder, Southern elder, pipe tree, and bore tree.
Some cultivars grow to an even greater height, thus they are also called small trees. Yielding lovely, sweet-scented blooms in the spring and edible berries in autumn, this tree is excellent for landscaping.

Facts and Information

The origin of the bush is believed to be in the warm regions of the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Today, it is planted in many parts of the world for landscaping and for harvesting useful plant parts. This flowering plant is found in moist areas where the humidity levels remain high at all times. Hence, this tree adapts to wetlands and swampy locations.


Earlier, the elderberry was classified as Caprifoliaceae, sharing the plant family with honeysuckle. Today, it is classified under the Adoxaceae family of the order Dipsacales. There are approximately 30 species of the elderberry, all of which are represented by the genus Sambucus. The species name differs according to variety.


The diversity of the elderberry genus is evident from the plant growth habit. While some are shrubs and small trees, a few of the species are herbaceous flowering plants. In case of the elderberry tree, it is deciduous and sheds its foliage in cold seasons.
Popularly grown varieties are the common elder, American elder (S. nigra ssp canadensis), and black elder. Based on the type of leaf, you have aurea and variegated varieties.


This shrub can be identified from the pinnate leaves with 5-9 toothed leaflets and clusters of white flowers borne in flat corymb inflorescence.
The average plant measures about 10-26 feet, but it can be as high as 49 feet based on the cultivar. The berries are small-sized (ΒΌ inch diameter) and black or bluish-black in color. 
However, you will also come across ripe elderberries that are white, yellow, or red in color.


The foliage of the plant is collected and used to make elderberry tea. The red, blue-black, and black berries are edible, and the latter two are appreciated for their medicinal properties.
The berries are rich sources of vitamin A, B, and C. Having a sharp tangy taste, they are best used for making fruit products like juices, jams, jellies, wines, fruit tarts, etc.


The planting of an elderberry bush should be done in early spring in moist, fertile soil, and preferably in sunlit areas. This tree requires minimal maintenance after it establishes to the growing area. In fact, the mother plant produces many young plantlets, which cause uncontrolled growth of thickets.

Tree Care

Regular watering is a must to ensure quick growth. In drought prone areas, supplement the soil with compost occasionally. Remember that this fruit tree cannot tolerate drought conditions.
As with other shrubs and bushes, yearly pruning is necessary to avoid unwanted growth of thickets and increase fruit yield. Also, mulching and removal of terminal shoots is suggested to grow healthy plants.

Tree Consideration

Ripe elderberries have a tart taste and are safe for consumption. But the vegetative parts of this tree, including the leaves, stems, branches and roots have cyanide compounds. Traces of toxic alkaloids are isolated from flowers and unripe berries as well. Thus, make sure that the shrubs and trees are planted in protected areas and handled with proper care.
Elderberry trees are prone to diseases like verticillium wilt, canker disease, and tomato ringspot virus. Keep a watchful eye over the trees and follow appropriate practices to control plant diseases on the first sight.
People who are interested in conserving butterflies and birds prefer to grow native tree varieties. There are many types of birds (including some songbirds) feed on elderberries. Hence, growing this deciduous tree cultivar is opted for attracting birds to the garden.