American Elder, Common Elderberry
Sambucus canadensis

Family: Adoxaceae (a-dox-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sambucus (sam-BYOO-kus) (Info)
Species: canadensis (ka-na-DEN-sis) (Info)
Synonym:Sambucus bipinnata
Synonym:Sambucus mexicana
Synonym:Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis
Synonym:Sambucus nigra var. canadensis

Category:

Edible Fruits and Nuts

Herbs

Shrubs

Height:

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Spacing:

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Hardiness:

USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)

USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Danger:

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:

Deciduous

Other details:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Non-patented

Propagation Methods:

From woody stem cuttings

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

Regional

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

, (2 reports)

Anniston, Alabama

Clanton, Alabama

Gadsden, Alabama

Vincent, Alabama

Jacumba, California

East Windsor, Connecticut

Washington, District Of Columbia

Bartow, Florida

Boca Raton, Florida

Bradenton, Florida

Deltona, Florida

Green Cove Springs, Florida

Hampton, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida (2 reports)

Kissimmee, Florida

Largo, Florida

Live Oak, Florida

Lutz, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida

Orange City, Florida

Orange Park, Florida

Pensacola, Florida (2 reports)

Pompano Beach, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Sebring, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Youngstown, Florida

Dacula, Georgia

Decatur, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Joliet, Illinois

Savoy, Illinois

South Holland, Illinois

Cicero, Indiana

Indianapolis, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Poseyville, Indiana

Valparaiso, Indiana

Coralville, Iowa

Osborne, Kansas

Benton, Kentucky

Clermont, Kentucky

Georgetown, Kentucky

Lexington, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Nicholasville, Kentucky

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Covington, Louisiana

Greenwell Springs, Louisiana

Lafayette, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Valley Lee, Maryland

Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Saint Paul, Minnesota

Long Beach, Mississippi

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Waynesboro, Mississippi

Aurora, Missouri

Belton, Missouri

Black, Missouri

Piedmont, Missouri

Sedalia, Missouri

Hooper, Nebraska

Frenchtown, New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey

Himrod, New York

Jefferson, New York

Niagara Falls, New York

Schenectady, New York

West Kill, New York

Boone, North Carolina

Dunn, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Vale, North Carolina

Elmore, Ohio

Glouster, Ohio

Mansfield, Ohio

Youngstown, Ohio

Enid, Oklahoma

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Jay, Oklahoma

Thackerville, Oklahoma

Baker City, Oregon

Cheshire, Oregon

Bath, Pennsylvania

Birdsboro, Pennsylvania

Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Pocono Summit, Pennsylvania

Columbia, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina

Clarksville, Tennessee

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas (2 reports)

Belton, Texas

Broaddus, Texas

De Leon, Texas

Dike, Texas

Paris, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Sugar Land, Texas

Leesburg, Virginia

Newport News, Virginia

Pearisburg, Virginia

Staunton, Virginia

North Bonneville, Washington

Stanwood, Washington

Liberty, West Virginia

Rosedale, West Virginia

Independence, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin

Two Rivers, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:

18
positives
6
neutrals
1
negative
RatingContent
Positive

On Aug 26, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is a wonderful native large shrub! Nice flower clusters that have some sweet smell and its fruit is good for mankind and birds. Easy to grow and best in average or moist or draining wet soils and full sun.

Positive

On Jul 8, 2012, steadycam3 from Houston Heights, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

Ditto to the other postings describing the plant. Ive not used the fruit yet but I plan to in future. No one has mentioned that it is one of the hosts for the saltmarsh caterpillar, a wooly cat with thick orange hair tipped with black.

Positive

On May 19, 2012, plant_it from Valparaiso, IN wrote:

Birds love it. The one we have is very hardy as it's managed to grow despite horrible conditions near a roadside (salt runoff in winter and water runoff from road in summer).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambucus

Negative

On Mar 24, 2011, hawaiifarmer from Hilo, HI wrote:

A small patch of Mexican Elderberry planted at a state park has become invasive in adjoining natural dry forest (mid elevation, Hawaii). We have cut trees down and tried several herbicides to kill the regrowth from the stumps, but it just keeps coming back! Be aware this plant may become invasive in cool, dry environments, difficult to kill if drought stressed.

Positive

On Nov 22, 2010, sun10rise from Whitefish, MT wrote:

Sambucus Canadensis grows wild in Montana and our city has planted it along the highway. Elderberry has many medicinal qualities, a list of which can be found at http://www.happyherbalist.com, search 'elderberry', then click the word 'elderberry' under the picture that comes up. To the American Indian it is known as 'medicine chest of the common people'. Combined with a very little bit of echinacea, elderberry makes a wonderful kombucha. Elder and echinacea are the basis of the very successful anitviral syrup known as 'Sambucal'. No thanks, I'll skip the flue shot!

Neutral

On Nov 22, 2010, louberger from Grand Valley
Canada wrote:

You better issue a S.O.S. on eating or confusing the common elderberry with the "red berried elder"sambucus racemosa ssp pubens whose berries and other parts are highly poisenous. The common elder is very common in Ontario Canada. I grow "Golden Elder" and "Japanese Elder" as cultivars for foilage.

Positive

On Nov 22, 2010, scottsmom from Point Phillips , PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

The elders were already here when we bough our property. It's thriving in the edges of our woods and along our hedgerows. This portion is designated wetlands however it's really just damp and sometimes soggy. Never too wet to actually walk around in.
The birds love it, it makes a great jelly and my son makes a great wine. My Pop claimed a couple of glasses of warm elderberry wine before bed would cure a cold. My theory is that after the wine, you didn't care if you had the cold or not:)
As for the toxicity, I've heard that before however I wonder how much bark you'd really have to chew of ingest? When I was a child, we had a neighbor who would make whistles from it by poking the pith from inside finger sized stems and making holes etc. Wish I'd paid attention to how he made ... read more

Neutral

On Sep 5, 2010, PammiePi from Green Cove Springs, FL wrote:

I love this plant because of the food it provides the birds, however, I live on a pond, and once the plant showed up (volunteered), it spread rapidly and was difficult to remove from the fenceline if the plants weren't quickly removed while young. These can grow rather tall to a small tree in size and grew into the fence. Fortunately, they are easy to remove once the old stems die, so I was able to get them under control. They are an interesting looking plant, so I now maintain a small "grove" of them for the birds & other wild life that feeds on the berries. Mine grow in full sun or filtered sunlight, the plants in full sun getting larger, & they seem to prefer growing at the edge of the pond or near the spring-fed creek in the woods, though I have found some in drier parts of the yar... read more

Neutral

On Apr 24, 2010, dermoidhome from Baton Rouge, LA wrote:

In south Louisiana (8B) this plant is ubiquitous in naturalized areas. In my garden, though I have a large native plant section, this plant wears me out trying to control it. It makes pretty flower stalks and lots of berries, though I have not really seen a lot of bird use. Mostly, it is my enemy.

Neutral

On Dec 16, 2009, Rene10 from Wauchula, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

This plant or small tree grows wild in Fl. evevry where the birds drop the seed, very prolific but easily controlled. Some make jellies from the ripe fruit.

Positive

On Nov 4, 2007, creekwalker from Benton County, MO (Zone 5a) wrote:

I love Elderberries! They make the very best jelly! The whole tree is actually poisonous including the unripe berries so make sure the berries are purple and not green. The berries also need to be cooked and not eaten raw.

They grow wild here in Missouri, usually along fence rows. I have tried planting and growing my own but so far, they keep dying.

Elderberries are antiviral and a tincture is made from them for fighting colds and flu. The best one for that is Sambucus Nigra which is native to Europe. The native species that grows in the US is Sambucus Canadensis and not Nigra.

Positive

On Aug 5, 2006, Macknrose from Poseyville, IN wrote:

I have twenty Adams and St John Elderberry Plants and they are magnificant in growth and fruit. They are easy to grow organicaly and they produce huge amounts of berries that I use for Jelly and Wine. If you keep the wine covered up and out of the light. It wil reward you with a deep purple liquid.
Suckers and new plants can be kept out of growth with a regular mowing aroung the plants as they are spread out far enough to mow between and pruned regularly to keep a nice shape. The flavor of elderberry is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone who can grow one. Even one bush will yield a lot when it matures.

Positive

On Jun 1, 2005, MaryE from Baker City, OR (Zone 5b) wrote:

The elderberries I have all came from one plant, there are no others for at least a mile and they produce fruit every year. I make juice and can it for mixing later with other fruit juices. When I can it I don't add sugar, so it can be used for jelly. My bushes are tall so my neighbor helps me harvest them, a real teamwork deal where she holds the branches with a garden rake and I cut the clusters. I'll post a picture of last year's harvest.

Positive

On May 30, 2005, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Lake Sam Rayburn, Zone 8
I look out my kitchen window & view a grove of American Elderberry. My daughter made Elderberry Jelley & gave as Christmas gifts in 2004.

This is only one of God's great gifts to man and birds!
This wonder plant is self sustaining: no fungi, chewing or sucking insects and makes a great privacy fence!

It grows wild in southeast Texas. We consider it a treasure!

Positive

On Apr 26, 2005, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

Fruits are edible and in my opinion are better than those of Sambucus nigra. It is reported that the raw fruits can make a person sick but they never bothered me.

Positive

On Jan 27, 2005, CatskillKarma from West Kill, NY wrote:

I love elderberries, especially in jelly and pie and muffins. They grow wild in the Catskills, both the naturalized European red-berried cultivars and the native black. The black taste much better to me, although they are mildly toxic raw. I regularly fight the bears to collect the wild ones in my mountain neighborhood--and they are very popular with the bears. They thrive along streambanks and other moist areas. However, I have had no luck growing the cultivated elderberries, Johns, Adams, and one or two other cultivars. I planted them on a sunny hillside where my black currants have thrived, and a native wild red elderberry also thrives, but they died back after two seasons.

Neutral

On Jan 26, 2005, xyris from Sebring, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

I suppose it must say something about the nature of my Florida garden that elderberry is a "weed" in my garden, both coming up from seed and from rapidly spreading underground rhizomes sending up suckers several feet from the parent clump. I am trying to reduce the amount of elderberry that I have to get in more diversity, but there will still be plenty left in the wetlands at the edge of my garden. It is now in flower in our area.

Positive

On Jan 25, 2005, arielsadmirer from Margate, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:

I have seen this growing in the wild in many places in Northern Broward County (Zone 10). It is readily visible due to the color of the leaves. Especially striking when in bloom.

I have never seen berries, perhaps they are picked clean by the birds.

I rescued a sucker from a lot near my home and have planted it in the garden. It is growing well, almost 3 feet in 6 months. I am now waiting for it to flower.

Positive

On Apr 30, 2004, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

The elderberry shrub is lovely with its white flowers and purple berries.
The birds love the berries and if they leave some for us we make an excellent jam with them that is my favorite flavor. We enjoy this shrub very much.

Positive

On Nov 12, 2003, plantzperson from Zachary, LA wrote:

This is another great bee plant! When it blooms on hot summer days, the smell is the best, like honey on the air! A wonderful food for many kinds of birds, but the roots seem to go on forever! I have seen it in bloom/full fruit in late Dec./Jan. here in South La. I believe it blooms in almost every month of the year here, provided the frost doesn't touch it.

Positive

On Nov 11, 2003, Michaelp from Glendale, UT (Zone 5a) wrote:

Elder flowers make a good expectorant, especially for children. If eradicating, don't burn the wood - it releases toxins when burnt that can harm us. Also don't let children chew on stems or leaves, as they are also toxic.

Positive

On Nov 10, 2003, suncatcheracres from Old Town, FL wrote:

I found this plant growing extensively on a piece of property I owned in Southern Oregon in the early 1970's, in a sunny spot near a creekbed, and every year my neighbors, an elderly couple who knew a lot about "folk ways" would ask me for my berries as they made elderberry wine with them, and also jam or jelly and fresh pies. They also made blackberry wine, and it was really interesting to see the purple fruit juices fermenting in five gallon crocks. For my generosity in giving them all my berries, which I wasn't using anyway, they would give me some small bottles of their homemade wine for the Holidays, and it actually tasted pretty good if you like sweet wine, and I do. It wasn't French or Napa Valley, but it was hearty and pretty good with a traditional Holiday meal.

... read more

Positive

On Nov 9, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I love this plant - great for drawing birds! It does tend to become agressive, spreading by both root and seed. Seedlings are easily pulled, but the roots...

Positive

On Aug 9, 2003, Ladyfern from Jeffersonville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

Excellent choice for naturalizing an area. Does fine just under the dripline of our maple and right next to the spruces, so it tolerates root competition. Puts out a lot of growth each year and blooms on new wood, so feel free to prune heavily to keep it in check. Birds (and some people!) love the berries. The big clusters of berries weigh the branches down, which may be unhandy if it's right next to a path. Its habit is more open then dense, so it doesn't work well for screening unless you have a real thicket of it.

Neutral

On Aug 12, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Elderberry is a large shrub or small tree often with multiple stems that are spreading or arching. The trunk is usually short. The leaves are pinnately compound, opposite and deciduous with 5-7 pairs of toothed leaflets and a grooved rachis. The twigs are stout and green-gray with lenticels and crescent-shaped leaf scars. The bark is gray and smooth with corky projections.

The flowers are small, white, borne in dense, flat-topped clusters, up to 8 inches across and appear mid-summer (June to July.) The fruit is small, berry-like drupes, purple-black, and very juicy, up to 1/4 inch in diameter. They are borne in flat-topped clusters, maturing July to September.

Elderberry is found on wet to moist sites in the east and central U.S. It does not tolerate sh... read more