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Marcus, Joseph A.
Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli
Common elderberry, Black elder, Mexican elderberry, Common elder, Elderberry, Tapiro, Sauco
Synonym(s): Sambucus caerulea var. mexicana, Sambucus canadensis, Sambucus canadensis var. laciniata, Sambucus canadensis var. submollis, Sambucus cerulea var. mexicana, Sambucus mexicana, Sambucus orbiculata, Sambucus simpsonii
USDA Symbol: SANIC4
Black elder is a loose, graceful, deciduous shrub with both woody and herbaceous branches to 12 ft. Many long stems arise from the base, arching at the top. Broad, white pith in stems and branches. Pinnately-compound leaves up to 12 inches long, opposite, consisting of a central axis with 4 to 10 usually 4 to 6, paired leaflets and a terminal one often larger. Leaflets ovate to elliptic or narrower, up to 7 inches long, with an extended tip and a broadly wedge shaped base, margins toothed except at the tip and toward the base, the teeth narrow and pointed toward the tip. Flowers white, 3/16 to 1/4 inch across, in broad, flat, conspicuous clusters up to 10 inches or more in diameter, appearing from May to July. Fruit berrylike, dark purple when ripe, 3/16 to 1/4 inch wide, edible.
The genus name comes from Greek sambuce, an ancient musical instrument, and refers to the soft pith, easily removed from the twigs and used to make flutes and whistles. This subspecies incorporates several other forms that used to be considered separate species, including S. mexicana and S. canadensis.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: May , Jun
, WY Canada: MB
, QC Native Distribution:
N.S. to FL,
w. to s. Man., e. Dakotas, e. OK
& TX Native Habitat:
Alluvial forests; bogs; ditches; drier, old fields. Edges of riparian thickets in Central and East Texas.
Growing ConditionsWater Use:
Medium Light Requirement:
Part Shade Soil Moisture:
Wet Soil pH:
Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2) CaCO3 Tolerance:
Medium Soil Description:
Tolerates a wide variety of wet to dry soils but prefers rich, moist, slightly acid soil. Conditions Comments:
This plant was used by Native
Americans for many medicinal purposes. The purple-black fruit
is attractive to birds that spread the seeds. The fruit
makes tasty jelly and wine. Prune heavily in winter to maintain thick form. Elderberry is a fast grower and aggressive competitor with weeds and herbaceous
species. Individual plants are very short-lived, however root masses produce new shoots. Cutting the whole bush to the groud every other year may be necessary to keep the bushes in check. This forest species will grow in full sun if the soil is well-tilled and watered. It can be planted as a hedge or alone. Provides effective erosion control on moist sites. S. simpsonii, occuring especially in FL,
has twice-compound leaves and is considered a separate species.
Berries are relished by many bird species and mammals. Deer eat twigs and leaves. Use Food:
Elderberries, inedible when fresh and raw, are used for making jelly, preserves, pies, and wine. Use Medicinal:
leaves, and flowers have served in home remedies but can be toxic. Warning:
POISONOUS PARTS: Leaves, twigs (stems), roots, unripe fruits. Low toxicity if ingested. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coma. Toxic Principle: Cyanogenic glycoside and alkaloid. Conspicuous Flowers:
Birds Nectar Source:
PropagationDescription: Propagation is quickest from cuttings. Roots easily from softwood cuttings taken from one-year-old (juvenile) seedlings. For elderberry seeds to germinate they must be pretreated. Untreated, fall-sown seeds will not germinate until the second year.
Seed Collection: Collect seeds as soon as the fruits ripen and turn dark blue. Clean seeds to avoid fermentation. Air dry two days before storing in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: Scarify in sulfuric acid for 10-20 minutes followed immediately by stratification in moist peat at 36-40 degrees for two months.
Commercially Avail: yes
Herbarium Specimen(s)NPSOT 0901
Collected Jun 24. 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
Record Last Modified: 2012-12-09
Research By: TWC Staff