Elderberry

Elderberry in bloom

Courtesy photo

The elderberry is now in bloom throughout most of Frederick County. There are nearly 50 species of elderberry or elder found throughout the world. Elderberries (Sambucus) are found in every continent except for Africa and Australia. Most of the native elderberries found in Frederick County are Sambucus canadensis or Eastern Elderberry. Elderberries are found in stream bottoms and lowland areas that are moderately wet but not swampy. The elderberry bush can have multiple stems and grow to a height of 20’ tall. Elderberry bushes can live for hundreds of years. Elderberries have lancelet leaves and a white flower that blooms in mid-June in Frederick County.

A purple fruit develops in August. These fruits are very valuable food sources for many birds; and, a number of butterflies and moths feed on the leaves during their larval stage. The fruit of elderberry is mildly poisonous when eaten raw but when cooked elderberries are used for pies, jams, tea, wine, and other liqueurs. The Scandinavians and Germans have a traditional elderberry soup. Elderberry is a favorite shrub of mine for streamside “riparian” plantings because it is hardy, grows fast, and has many benefits for wildlife. And, let’s not forget is beautiful bloom.

Nature Notes for 6/20/2010