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 Sambucus subsp. var.  Elderberry or Elder
Ripening elderberries
Habit: [[Category:]]
Height: to
Width: to
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Lifespan: perennial
Poisonous: toxic, except ripe berries
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Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
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Flower features:
Adoxaceae > Sambucus var. ,

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Sambucus (elder or elderberry) is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small trees in the moschatel family, Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. Two of its species are herbaceous.

The genus is native in temperate-to-subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. It is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere; its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia and South America.

The leaves are pinnate with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5 – 30 cm long, and the leaflets have serrated margins. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-coloured flowers in late spring; these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries (rarely yellow or white).

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Sambucus (old Latin name for the elder, also spelled Sabucus). Caprifoliaceae. Elder. Ornamental mostly woody plants grown for their handsome foliage, showy clusters of white flowers, and the attractive red or black berries.

Deciduous shrubs or small trees, with stout very pithy branches, rarely perennial herbs: lvs. opposite, odd-pinnate, with serrate lfts., with or without stipules and stipels: fls. small, usually perfect, white, in terminal compound cymes or panicles, usually 5-merous, rarely 3- or 4-merous; calyx-lobes minute; corolla rotate with short tube and oval to oblong-lanceolate lobes; stamens with short filaments; ovary inferior, 3-5-celled; style short, 3-5-lobed: fr. a drupe with 3-5 1-seeded nutlets.—About 20 species in the temperate and subtropical regions of both hemispheres. Some species, particularly S. nigra and S. canadensis, possess medicinal properties; the fr. of these species and also that of S. caerulea is used in cookery, also elderberry wine is made from it. The hard wood, the large pithy shoots which are easily hollowed and the pith are put to various uses. Monograph of the genus by Count Schwerin in M.D. 1909, pp. 1-56.

The elders are large and rather coarse shrubs, rarely tree-like, or perennials spreading by suckers, with pinnate foliage and large flat or panicled clusters of white or creamy white small flowers followed by red or black, rarely glaucous or in some varieties green or yellow fruits. They are well adapted for mass planting and are very effective as well in bloom as in fruit in their proper places. They prefer rich and humid soil and most species are hardy North; S. caerulea and its var. neo-mexicana are hardy at least as far north as Massachusetts. Propagation is by seeds which germinate readily and by hardwood and greenwood cuttings, also by root-cuttings; the perennial species and also S. canadensis by suckers.

S. callicarpa, Greene (S. leiosperma, Leiberg. S. racemosa var. callicarpa, Jepson). Allied to S. pubens: shrub to 10 ft.: lfts. oblong to lanceolate, pubescent on the veins beneath while young: infl. broadly pyramidal or hemispherical: nutlets smooth. Alaska to Calif., Japan. M.D. 1909:8, fig. 5. G.F. 10:175. Mn. 2:21 (as S. pubens). —S. chinensis, Lindl.—S. javanica.—S. Ebulus, Linn. Herbaceous, stoloniferous, to 5 ft.: lfts. 5-9, elliptic-lanceolate, serrate, pubescent; stipules large: cymes flat, 3-rayed; fls. white or pinkish, anthers purple, fragrant: fr. black, 1/4 in. across. Eu., Afr., W. Asia. R.F.G. 12:779. S.E.B. 4:638.—S. Fontenaysii, Carr. (S. caerulea X S. nigra). Intermediate between the parents: lvs. bluish green: cymes large: fr. black, bloomy. Garden origin.—S. javanica, Reinw. (S. chinensis, Lindl. S. Thunbergiana, Blume). Suffruticose, to 6 ft.: lfts. 5-7, elliptic-lanceolate, the upper ones sometimes decurrent, long-acuminate, sparingly pubescent while young, to 8 in. long: cymes flat, 5-6 in. across, with scattered large aborted fleshy fls.: fr. ovoid, red. Japan, China to Malay Archipelago.—S. leiosperma, Leiberg- S. callicarpa.—S. melanocarpa. Gray. Allied to S. pubens. Shrub, to 12 ft.: lfts. oblong-lanceolate, pubescent beneath while young, 4-5 in. long: infl. ovate: fr. 1/4 in. thick, black, rarely reddish brown. Brit. Col. to Calif. G.F. 10:135. M.D. 1909:8, fig. 4. I.T. 5:173.—S. mexicana, D.C. (S. canadensis var. mexicana, Sarg.). Tree, to 30 ft.: lvs. 5-9-foliolate, sometimes bipinnate; lfts. ovate-lanceolate, long-acuminate, pubescent on both sides while young, later only below, 2-6 in. long: cymes flat, 6-8 in. across: fr. nearly black, ribbed, 1/4 in. across. W. Texas to S. Calif., Mex. S.S. 5:221. In Mex. planted sometimes near houses as a shade-tree and for its fr. —S. microbotrys, Rydb. Allied to S. pubens. Shrub, to 6 ft., glabrous: lfts. ovate-lanceolate, long-acuminate, to 5 in. long: infl. small, nearly hemispherical, about 2 in. long: fr. scarlet. Calif. to Colo. and Nev.—S. Sieboldiana, Graebn. (S. racemosa var. Sieboldiana, Miq.). Closely related to S. racemosa: lfts. oblong-ovate to lanceolate, smooth, not rugulose above, more finely serrate, to 4 or occasionally to 8 in. long: fls. and frs. smaller. Japan, China. S.I.F.2:74 (as S. racemosa).—S. Simpsonii, Rehd. Allied to S. canadensis. Small tree, to 15 ft., with deeply furrowed bark: lfts. usually 5, elliptic to elliptic-oblong, lustrous above, glabrous, 1 1/2-3 in. long: cymes with 4 or 5 rays, the central ray as long or longer than the lateral rays: ovary 5-celled. Fla. S.T.S. 2:175.—S. Thunbergiana, Blume - S. javanica. The plant cult. under this name is S. racemosa or possibly sometimes S. Sieboldiana.CH

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Pests and diseases

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Species groups

Black Elder (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry cultivation in Austria
  • The common elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus nigra found in the warmer parts of Europe and North America with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in flat corymbs, and the berries are black to glaucous blue; they are larger shrubs, reaching 5–8 m tall, occasionally small trees up to 15 m tall and with a stem diameter of up to 30–60 cm.
  • The Blackberry Elder Sambucus melanocarpa of western North America is intermediate between the preceding and next groups. The flowers are in rounded panicles, but the berries are black; it is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 3–4 m tall. Some botanists include it in the red-berried elder group.
  • The red-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus racemosa found throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries are bright red; they are smaller shrubs, rarely exceeding 3–4 m tall.
  • The Australian elder group comprises two species from Australasia. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries white or yellow; they are shrubs growing to 3 m high.
  • The dwarf elders are, by contrast to the other species, herbaceous plants, producing new stems each year from a perennial root system; they grow to 1.5–2 m tall, each stem terminating in a large flat umbel which matures into a dense cluster of glossy berries.
    • Sambucus adnata (Asian Dwarf Elder; Himalaya and eastern Asia; berries red)
    • Sambucus ebulus (European Dwarf Elder; central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia; berries black)



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