Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: European Red Elder, Red Elderberry
Sambucus racemosa

Family: Adoxaceae (a-dox-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Sambucus (sam-BYOO-kus) (Info)
Species: racemosa (ray-see-MO-suh) (Info)

Synonym:Sambucus callicarpa
Synonym:Sambucus microbotrys
Synonym:Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa

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12 members have or want this plant for trade.

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4-6 ft. (1.2-1.8 m)
6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Unknown - Tell us

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

Sun Exposure:
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade
Full Shade

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Winter/Early Spring


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 12 photos.
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1 positive
1 neutral
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Malus2006 On Mar 22, 2006, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I tried S. pubens, Scarlet Elder, but it appears it is a syn. This bush is very shade tolerant, and birds left seedlings all over my yard, even though the closest bush is not visible. Birds loves this species. I am trying it as a bush for the shade.

Blooming time is early spring, often after a long enough warm spell. For me, this is one of a small group of native bushes that blooms in early spring along with the hepticas and other early blooming plants. If you have a elderberry that blooms in early spring, this is it. If it blooms in early summer it may be American Elderberry or Black Elderberry. Leaves appear with the blooms, but don't expand to their full size until the flowers are finished. Seedlings appear under old specimens of old fashion lilac, and even under trimmed evergreen trees.

Too bad this species is not used more often, preferably breeding a compact plant, as birds love it, and it is a few fully shade-tolerant tree that will bloom and produce berries, even in woodland shade. So far, trimming it back each year, for two years, has made it a bit more compact and branching.

I would like to omit 'European' from the name as it is inaccurate, and this species by the broad definition as stated on the internet, is not from Europe only, but is circumboreal and is made up of many former species put together as one.

Update: April 16, 2008: It seem to be less drought tolerance and need to be watered more often. It have survived even a late spring snowstorm and hard freeze when it broke buds in early April. I have found that one differs a bit from the others into that it have purplish leaves and flower buds when immature but becomes normal green leaves and white flowers later into spring. The wood is very light, being hollow and what's left is soft white pith.

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

European Red Elderberry grows as an upright large shrub or small tree, commonly 8 to 20 feet tall. The leaves are opposite, simple, pinnate, compound; stipules are absent or minute. Tiny white flowers are borne in large, upright, dome-shaped clusters and have a strong odor when they appear in May/June.

The fruit is small (1/16" to 1/8"), usually red and berry-like borne in upright, dome-shaped clusters; unpalatable when raw - and may be TOXIC to some - but edible when cooked.


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

Anchorage, Alaska
Minneapolis, Minnesota
, Newfoundland and Labrador
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Portland, Oregon
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Lexington, Virginia
Bellingham, Washington

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