En EspaŅol

NPIN: Native Plant Database

Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

Search native plant database:
See a list of all Plants

Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea (Blue elder)
Alder, Michael G.

Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea

Sambucus nigra L. ssp. caerulea (Raf.) R. Bolli, orth. var.

Blue elder, Black elder, Blue (Mexican) elderberry

Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle Family)


USDA Symbol: sanic6

USDA Native Status:

A large shrub or small tree, blue elder grows 6-24 ft. tall with flat-topped clusters of fragrant, creamy flowers followed by black berries. Deciduous leaves are pinnately compound and somewhat persistent.

The sweetish berries are used in preserves and pies but should never be eaten when fresh and raw. Lewis and Clark first reported Blue Elder as an alder with pale, sky blue berries. A remedy for fever has been concocted from the bark. Blue Elderberry is planted as an ornamental for the numerous whitish flowers and bluish fruits.


Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf: Green
Size Class: 12-36 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: AZ , CA , CO , ID , MT , NM , NV , OR , TX , UT , WA , WY
Native Distribution: CA Sierras & Coast Ranges to s. B.C., e. to Alt. & NM
Native Habitat: Cool, moist, open places up to 10,000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Moist, rich, rocky, well drained soils.
Conditions Comments: Pruning improves form.


Use Wildlife: Birds eat berries.
Use Food: Edible berries.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes


Description: Easily started from cuttings. May also be propagated by treated seed.
Seed Collection: Collect fruits by stripping or cutting from the branches. Fruits may be dried or macerated and the seeds extracted.
Seed Treatment: Seed must be cold-moist stratified for two months. This treatment may be preceded by a 10-15 minute soak in H2SO4.
Commercially Avail: yes


Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Additional resources

USDA: Find Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea


Record Modified: 2009-04-08
Research By: TWC Staff

Go back

© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center