Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: 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

10 vendors have this plant for sale.

42 members have or want this plant for trade.

Edible Fruits and Nuts

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

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

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer


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:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry

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18 positives
6 neutrals
1 negative

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb 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 steadycam3 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 plant_it 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).

Negative hawaiifarmer 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 sun10rise 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, 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 louberger 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 scottsmom 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 them. We just whistled till we wore them out I'm sure with more than a little chewing on the ends. We survived the toxic properties, I'm 70 now :)

Neutral PammiePi 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 yard as well. This plant kind of reminds me of bamboo, and has very interesting looking bark.

Neutral dermoidhome 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 Rene10 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 creekwalker 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 Macknrose 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 MaryE 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 SudieGoodman 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 Kelli 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 CatskillKarma 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 xyris 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 arielsadmirer 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 frostweed 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 plantzperson 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 Michaelp 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 suncatcheracres 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.

Elderberries will grow here in Northcentral Florida, zone 8b, and I plan on acquiring some of the many named cultivars that produce good fruit, rather than the more ornamental types, as I just might try my own hand at making elderberry wine some day. Two different varieties are needed for pollination, and the flowers can also be used along with the fruit for wine making.

Positive dogbane 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 Ladyfern 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 mystic 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 shade.


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
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
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
Raleigh, North Carolina
Vale, North Carolina
Glouster, Ohio
Mansfield, Ohio
Enid, Oklahoma
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Jay, Oklahoma
Thackerville, Oklahoma
Baker City, Oregon
Cheshire, Oregon
Bath, Pennsylvania
Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
Greencastle, Pennsylvania
Columbia, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas
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

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