Common Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis

Common Elderberry

Sambucus canadensis

Benefits: Pollinator Benefit Graphic
Sun Shade: Plant Light Requirements Graphic
Bloom Time: Late Spring/Early Summer
Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Soil Conditions: Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil Moisture: Medium, Moist
Color: White
Fragrance: Yes
Height: 3-8 feet
Spacing: 6-8 feet

Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a deciduous, somewhat sprawling, suckering shrub that typically grows to 5-12 feet tall. It typically occurs on streambanks, moist woodlands, thickets, fence rows and roadsides. Tiny lemon-scented white flowers appear in large flat-topped clusters in June.

After blooming the flowers are replaced by drupe-like fruits. At maturity during mid- to late summer, these drupes are a little less than ¼-inch across, dark purple to black, glabrous, and globoid in shape. Each mature drupe has a juicy interior with 3-5 small seeds. The flavor of these drupes is sweet, although with a slightly bitter aftertaste. The root system is shallow and rhizomatous. Clonal offsets often develop from the spreading rhizomes.

Habitats include river-bottom prairies, moist meadows in woodlands, disturbed open woodlands, woodland borders, thickets, gravelly seeps, banks of streams and ditches, powerline clearances in wooded areas, fence rows, shrubby areas along railroads, and abandoned fields. Common Elderberry is a pioneer species that is often found in habitats with a history of disturbance.

Grow in medium to wet, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates a wide range of soils, but prefers moist, humusy ones. Prune suckers as they appear unless naturalizing. A large number of late winter pruning options include (a) pruning out dead or weakened stems, (b) shortening one year stems or (c) cutting back to the ground to rejuvenate. Some horticulturists recommend a hard spring pruning for maintaining best foliage and habit.

 Plant Notes and Herbal Uses
  Fruits of species plants are sometimes used to make jams, jellies, pie filings and elderberry wine. Fruits are attractive to wildlife.
  Branches are susceptible to damage from high winds or from heavy snow/ice in winter.
  Plants will spread by root suckers.
  Rabbits sometimes gnaw on the bark during the winter as an emergency source of food.
 Further Information

 Wisconsin Fruit Trees
 Wisconsin Edible Berry Shrubs
 Widsconsin Edible Plants-Eat On The Wild Side
 8 Dandelion Recipes
 Wisconsin Native Plant Nurseries

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