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Elderberry

Elderberry

Overview
Sambucus is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small trees in the moschatel
Moschatel
Adoxa moschatellina is the sole member of the genus Adoxa. It grows in hedgerows throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, in cool forests, at low altitudes in the far north, to high altitudes in mountains in the south of its range...

 family, Adoxaceae
Adoxaceae
The Adoxaceae is a small family of flowering plants in the order Dipsacales, as now constituted comprising four genera and about 150-200 species. It is characterised by opposite toothed leaves, small five- or, more rarely, four-petalled flowers in cymose inflorescences, and the fruit being a drupe...

. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckles are arching shrubs or twining vines in the family Caprifoliaceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 180 species of honeysuckle, 100 of which occur in China; Europe, India and North America have only about 20 native species each...

 family, Caprifoliaceae
Caprifoliaceae
The Caprifoliaceae or honeysuckle family is a clade consisting of about 800 dicotyledonous flowering plants, with a nearly cosmopolitan distribution; centres of diversity are found in eastern North America and eastern Asia, while they are absent in tropical and southern Africa.They are mostly...

, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. Two of its species are herbaceous
Herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

.

The genus is native in temperate-to-subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

. It is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere; its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

.

The leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are pinnate
Pinnate
Pinnate is a term used to describe feather-like or multi-divided features arising from both sides of a common axis in plant or animal structures, and comes from the Latin word pinna meaning "feather", "wing", or "fin". A similar term is pectinate, which refers to a comb-like arrangement of parts...

 with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11).
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Sambucus is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small trees in the moschatel
Moschatel
Adoxa moschatellina is the sole member of the genus Adoxa. It grows in hedgerows throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, in cool forests, at low altitudes in the far north, to high altitudes in mountains in the south of its range...

 family, Adoxaceae
Adoxaceae
The Adoxaceae is a small family of flowering plants in the order Dipsacales, as now constituted comprising four genera and about 150-200 species. It is characterised by opposite toothed leaves, small five- or, more rarely, four-petalled flowers in cymose inflorescences, and the fruit being a drupe...

. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle
Honeysuckle
Honeysuckles are arching shrubs or twining vines in the family Caprifoliaceae, native to the Northern Hemisphere. There are about 180 species of honeysuckle, 100 of which occur in China; Europe, India and North America have only about 20 native species each...

 family, Caprifoliaceae
Caprifoliaceae
The Caprifoliaceae or honeysuckle family is a clade consisting of about 800 dicotyledonous flowering plants, with a nearly cosmopolitan distribution; centres of diversity are found in eastern North America and eastern Asia, while they are absent in tropical and southern Africa.They are mostly...

, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. Two of its species are herbaceous
Herbaceous
A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

.

The genus is native in temperate-to-subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere
Northern Hemisphere
The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

 and the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

. It is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere; its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia
Australasia
Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

.

The leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 are pinnate
Pinnate
Pinnate is a term used to describe feather-like or multi-divided features arising from both sides of a common axis in plant or animal structures, and comes from the Latin word pinna meaning "feather", "wing", or "fin". A similar term is pectinate, which refers to a comb-like arrangement of parts...

 with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5 – long, and the leaflets have serrated margins. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

s in late spring; these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries (rarely yellow or white).

Species groups


  • The black-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus nigra
    Sambucus nigra
    Sambucus nigra is a species complex of elder native to most of Europe.It is most commonly called Elder, Elderberry, Black Elder, European Elder, European Elderberry, European Black Elderberry, Common Elder, or Elder Bush when distinction from other species of Sambucus is needed...

    found in the warmer parts of Europe
    Europe
    Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

     and North America
    North America
    North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

     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 3–8 m (9.8–26.2 ft) tall, occasionally small trees up to 15 m (49.2 ft) tall and with a stem diameter of up to 30–60 cm (11.8–23.6 in).
    • Sambucus australis (Southern Elder; temperate eastern South America)
    • Sambucus canadensis
      Sambucus canadensis
      Sambucus canadensis is a species of elderberry native to a large area of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and south through eastern Mexico and Central America to Panama. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry soils, primarily in sunny locations.-Growth:It is a...

      (syn. S. nigra ssp canadensis; American Elder; eastern North America; with blue-black berries)
    • Sambucus cerulea
      Sambucus cerulea
      Sambucus cerulea, common name Blue Elderberry and Blue Elder, is a coarse shrub species of elder in the family Adoxaceae.The taxonomy of this species is in dispute, and it can be referred to by several different names. The USDA lists it as Sambucus nigra ssp...

      (syn. S. caerulea, S. glauca; Blue Elderberry; western North America; dark blue-black berries with glaucous bloom on surface, giving them a sky-blue appearance)
    • Sambucus javanica
      Sambucus javanica
      Sambucus javanica is a species of Elderberry in the family Adoxaceae native to tropical Asia. It is found naturally in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia , the Philippines, southern Thailand, and Vietnam....

      (Chinese Elder; southeastern Asia)
    • Sambucus nigra
      Sambucus nigra
      Sambucus nigra is a species complex of elder native to most of Europe.It is most commonly called Elder, Elderberry, Black Elder, European Elder, European Elderberry, European Black Elderberry, Common Elder, or Elder Bush when distinction from other species of Sambucus is needed...

      (Elder or Black Elder; Europe and western Asia; with black berries) This is the species most often used medicinally.
    • Sambucus lanceolata (Madeira Elder; Madeira Island; with black berries)
    • Sambucus mexicana (Mexican Elder; Sonoran Desert
      Sonoran Desert
      The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert which straddles part of the United States-Mexico border and covers large parts of the U.S. states of Arizona and California and the northwest Mexican states of Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is one of the largest and hottest...

      ; with black berries)
    • Sambucus palmensis (Canary Islands Elder; Canary Islands
      Canary Islands
      The Canary Islands , also known as the Canaries , is a Spanish archipelago located just off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, 100 km west of the border between Morocco and the Western Sahara. The Canaries are a Spanish autonomous community and an outermost region of the European Union...

      ; with black berries)
    • Sambucus peruviana
      Sambucus peruviana
      Sambucus peruviana , commonly called Sauco or Rayan is a medium-sized, spreading tree or shrub in the genus Sambucus that is distributed in the Andean mountain ranges from Costa Rica and Panama to Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, and occasionally as far south as Argentina...

      (Peruvian Elder; northwest South America; with black berries)
    • Sambucus simpsonii (Florida Elder; southeastern United States; with blue-black berries)
    • Sambucus velutina
      Sambucus velutina
      Sambucus velutina, more commonly known as the Velvet Elder, is a relatively large, deciduous shrub that is endemic to the Southwestern region of the United States. This particular species is characteristic of Central California and Western Nevada....

      (Velvet Elder; southwestern North America; with blue-black berries)

  • The Blackberry Elder Sambucus melanocarpa of western North America is intermediate between the preceding and next groups. The flowers are in rounded panicle
    Panicle
    A panicle is a compound raceme, a loose, much-branched indeterminate inflorescence with pedicellate flowers attached along the secondary branches; in other words, a branched cluster of flowers in which the branches are racemes....

    s, but the berries are black; it is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) 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
    Sambucus racemosa
    Sambucus racemosa is a species of elderberry known by the common name Red Elderberry. It is native to Europe, temperate Asia, and north and central North America. It grows in riparian environments, woodlands, and other habitat, generally in moist areas. This often treelike shrub grows 2 to 6 meters...

    found throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere
    Northern Hemisphere
    The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of its equator—the word hemisphere literally means “half sphere”. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator...

     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 (9.8–13.1 ft) tall.
    • Sambucus callicarpa (Pacific Coast Red Elderberry; west coast of North America)
    • Sambucus chinensis (Chinese Red Elder; eastern Asia, in mountains)
    • Sambucus latipinna (Korean Red Elder; Korea, southeast Siberia)
    • Sambucus microbotrys (Mountain Red Elder; southwest North America, in mountains)
    • Sambucus pubens (American Red Elder; northern North America)
    • Sambucus racemosa
      Sambucus racemosa
      Sambucus racemosa is a species of elderberry known by the common name Red Elderberry. It is native to Europe, temperate Asia, and north and central North America. It grows in riparian environments, woodlands, and other habitat, generally in moist areas. This often treelike shrub grows 2 to 6 meters...

      (European Red Elder or Red-berried Elder; northern Europe, northwest Asia)
    • Sambucus sieboldiana (Japanese Red Elder; Japan and Korea)
    • Sambucus tigranii
      Sambucus tigranii
      Sambucus tigranii is a species of plant in the Adoxaceae family. It is endemic to Armenia.-Source:* Firsov, G.A. 1998. . Downloaded on 23 August 2007....

      (Caucasus Red Elder; southwest Asia, in mountains)
    • Sambucus williamsii (North China Red Elder; northeast Asia)

  • The Australian elder group comprises two species from Australasia
    Australasia
    Australasia is a region of Oceania comprising Australia, New Zealand, the island of New Guinea, and neighbouring islands in the Pacific Ocean. The term was coined by Charles de Brosses in Histoire des navigations aux terres australes...

    . The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries white or yellow; they are shrubs growing to 3 m (9.8 ft) high.
    • Sambucus australasica
      Sambucus australasica
      Sambucus australasica, commonly known as Yellow Elderberry or Native Elderberry is an eastern Australian shrub, usually found in and on the edges of rainforest....

      (Yellow Elder; New Guinea
      New Guinea
      New Guinea is the world's second largest island, after Greenland, covering a land area of 786,000 km2. Located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, it lies geographically to the east of the Malay Archipelago, with which it is sometimes included as part of a greater Indo-Australian Archipelago...

      , eastern Australia)
    • Sambucus gaudichaudiana
      Sambucus gaudichaudiana
      Sambucus gaudichaudiana, white elderberry, is an understorey shrub native to coastal rainforest and cool forests of eastern and south-eastern Australia....

      (Australian Elder or White Elder; shady areas of south eastern Australia)

  • The dwarf elders are, by contrast to the other species, herbaceous
    Herbaceous
    A herbaceous plant is a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level. They have no persistent woody stem above ground...

     plants, producing new stems each year from a perennial root system; they grow to 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) 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)


Other species:
  • Sambucus melanocarpa Gray (western elder)

  • Sambucus neomexicana Wooton (New Mexico elder)

  • Sambucus mexicana Presl. (Mexican elderberry; western Texas to southern California and adjacent Mexico (tapiro in Spanish))

  • Sambucus velutina
    Sambucus velutina
    Sambucus velutina, more commonly known as the Velvet Elder, is a relatively large, deciduous shrub that is endemic to the Southwestern region of the United States. This particular species is characteristic of Central California and Western Nevada....

    Dur. & Hilg. (velvet elder; mountains of western Arizona)

  • Sambucus coerula Raf.(western elder; British Columbia to Arizona and California)

Food



The flowers of Sambucus nigra
Sambucus nigra
Sambucus nigra is a species complex of elder native to most of Europe.It is most commonly called Elder, Elderberry, Black Elder, European Elder, European Elderberry, European Black Elderberry, Common Elder, or Elder Bush when distinction from other species of Sambucus is needed...

are used to produce elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial
Elderflower cordial is a soft drink made largely from a refined sugar and water solution and uses the flowers of the elderberry, also called the sambucus nigra...

. The French, Austrians and Central Europeans produce elderflower syrup, commonly made from an extract of elderflower blossoms, which is added to pancake (Palatschinken) mixes instead of blueberries. People throughout much of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe use a similar method to make a syrup which is diluted with water and used as a drink. Based on this syrup, Fanta
Fanta
Fanta is a global brand of fruit-flavored carbonated soft drinks from the Coca-Cola Company. There are over 90 flavors worldwide. The drink debuted in Germany in 1941 and originally sold only in Europe.-History:...

 markets a soft drink variety called "Shokata" which is sold in 15 countries worldwide. In the United States, this French elderflower syrup is used to make elderflower marshmallow
Marshmallow
The marshmallow is a confection that, in its modern form, typically consists of sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin that has been softened in hot water, dextrose, vanilla flavourings, and sometimes colouring, whipped to a spongy consistency. Some marshmallow recipes call for egg whites...

s. St-Germain, a French liqueur, is made from elderflowers. Hallands Fläder, a Swedish akvavit
Akvavit
Akvavit or aquavit is a traditional flavoured spirit that is principally produced in Scandinavia, where it has been produced since the 15th century....

, is flavoured with elderflowers.

Wine
Wine
Wine is an alcoholic beverage, made of fermented fruit juice, usually from grapes. The natural chemical balance of grapes lets them ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, or other nutrients. Grape wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast...

s, cordials and marmalade
Marmalade
Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits, boiled with sugar and water. The benchmark citrus fruit for marmalade production in Britain is the "Seville orange" from Spain, Citrus aurantium var...

 have been produced from the berries or flowers. Fruit pies and relishes are produced with berries. In Italy (especially in Piedmont
Piedmont
Piedmont is one of the 20 regions of Italy. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres and a population of about 4.4 million. The capital of Piedmont is Turin. The main local language is Piedmontese. Occitan is also spoken by a minority in the Occitan Valleys situated in the Provinces of...

) and Germany, the umbel
Umbel
An umbel is an inflorescence which consists of a number of short flower stalks which are equal in length and spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs....

s of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and then served as a dessert or a sweet lunch with a sugar and cinnamon topping.

Hollowed elderberry twigs have traditionally been used as spile
Spile
A spile is a small wooden peg used to control the flow of air into, and carbon dioxide out of, a cask of ale.Cask ale is served without externally-supplied carbon dioxide or nitrogen...

s to tap maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

 trees for syrup
Maple syrup
Maple syrup is a syrup usually made from the xylem sap of sugar maple, red maple, or black maple trees, although it can also be made from other maple species such as the bigleaf maple. In cold climates, these trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter; the starch is then...

.

Cultivation


Ornamental varieties of Sambucus are grown in gardens for their showy flowers, fruits and lacy foliage.

Native species of elderberry are often planted by people wishing to support native butterfly and bird species.

Medicine


Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Sambucus nigra may be an effective treatment for H1N1 flu. A 1995 study found: "A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the SAM-treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo
Placebo
A placebo is a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient...

 group (p < 0.001). No satisfactory medication to cure influenza
Influenza
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae , that affects birds and mammals...

 type A and B is available. Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B." A small study published in 2004 showed that 93% of flu patients given elderberry extract were completely symptom-free within two days; those taking a placebo recovered in about six days. A 2009 study found that the H1N1 inhibition activities of the elderberry flavonoids compare favorably to the known anti-influenza activities of Oseltamivir
Oseltamivir
Oseltamivir INN , an antiviral drug, slows the spread of influenza virus between cells in the body by stopping the virus from chemically cutting ties with its host cell; median time to symptom alleviation is reduced by 0.5–1 day. The drug is sold under the trade name Tamiflu, and is taken orally...

 (Tamiflu) and Amantadine
Amantadine
Amantadine is the organic compound known formally as 1-adamantylamine or 1-aminoadamantane. The molecule consists of adamantane backbone that has an amino group substituted at one of the four methyne positions. This pharmaceutical is sold under the name Symmetrel for use both as an antiviral and an...

. A 2004 study found that symptoms of influenza A and B virus infections were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. The study stated, "Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study". Elderberries were well known to Native American medicine people, who described the fruit as "strengthening the inner warrior".

A 2001 study entitled "The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines" concluded: "We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. Sambucol could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments. In view of the increasing popularity of botanical supplements, such studies and investigations in vitro, in vivo and in clinical trials need to be developed."

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve suggests several elderberry syrup recipes:
To make Elderberry Rob [syrup], 5 lb. of fresh ripe, crushed berries are simmered with 1 lb. of loaf sugar and the juice evaporated to the thickness of honey. It is cordial, aperient and diuretic. One or two tablespoonsful mixed with a tumblerful of hot water, taken at night, promotes perspiration and is demulcent to the chest. The Rob when made can be bottled and stored for the winter. Herbalists sell it ready for use.

'Syrup of Elderberries' is made as follows: Pick the berries when throughly ripe from the stalks and stew with a little water in a jar in the oven or pan. After straining, allow 1/2 oz. of whole ginger and 18 cloves to each gallon. Boil the ingredients an hour, strain again and bottle. The syrup is an excellent cure for a cold. To about a wineglassful of Elderberry syrup, add hot water, and if liked, sugar.

Music


Branches from the Elder are also used to make the Fujara, Koncovka and other uniquely Slovakian flutes. http://www.slavorum.com/index.php?topic=485.0

Toxicity


The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside
Glycoside
In chemistry, a glycoside is a molecule in which a sugar is bound to a non-carbohydrate moiety, usually a small organic molecule. Glycosides play numerous important roles in living organisms. Many plants store chemicals in the form of inactive glycosides. These can be activated by enzyme...

 which gives rise to cyanide
Cyanide
A cyanide is a chemical compound that contains the cyano group, -C≡N, which consists of a carbon atom triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom. Cyanides most commonly refer to salts of the anion CN−. Most cyanides are highly toxic....

 as the metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

 processes it). Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, "herbal teas" made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanogenic glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat.

Ecology


The berries are a very valuable food resource for many bird
Bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s. In Northern California elderberries are a favorite food for migrating Band-Tailed Pigeons. Flocks can strip an entire bush in less than an hour. Elders are used as food plants by the larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e of some Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies . It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies...

 species including Brown-tail
Brown-tail
The brown-tail is a moth of the family Lymantriidae. It is distributed throughout Europe.The wings of this species are pure white, as is the body, apart from a tuft of brown hairs at the end of the abdomen. The brown coloration extends along most of the back of the abdomen in the male...

, Buff Ermine
Buff Ermine
The Buff Ermine is a moth of the family Arctiidae. It is sometimes placed in the genus Spilosoma. It is found throughout the temperate belt of the Palearctic region south to Northern Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan; also in Southern Siberia , Eastern Mongolia, Amur Region, China, Korea and Japan.The...

, Dot Moth
Dot Moth
The Dot Moth is a moth of the family Noctuidae. It is found throughout Europe apart from the south-east.This is a very distinctive species with very dark brown, almost black, forewings marked with a large white stigma from which the species gets its common name. The hindwings are grey with a dark...

, Emperor Moth, the Engrailed
Engrailed
The Engrailed and Small Engrailed are moths of the family Geometridae. They are distributed across most of Europe. There is an on-going debate as to whether they make up one species, or whether E. crepuscularia actually refers only to the Small Engrailed, with the Engrailed proper being separable...

, Swallow-tailed Moth
Swallow-tailed Moth
The Swallow-tailed Moth is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is a common species across Europe and the Near East....

 and the V-pug
V-Pug
The V-Pug is a moth of the family Geometridae. It is found throughout the Palearctic region, the Near East and North Africa. It is well distributed in the British Isles except for the north of Scotland....

. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetle
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle
The valley elderberry longhorn beetle, Desmocerus californicus dimorphus, is a subspecies of longhorn beetle native to the riparian forests of the Central Valley of California from Redding to Bakersfield...

 in California are very often found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.

Dead elder wood is the preferred habitat of the mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae
Auricularia auricula-judae
Auricularia auricula-judae, known as the Jew's ear, jelly ear or by a number of other common names, is a species of edible Auriculariales fungus found worldwide. The fruiting body is distinguished by its noticeably ear-like shape and brown colouration; it grows upon wood, especially elder...

, also known as "Judas' ear fungus".

The pith
Pith
Pith, or medulla, is a tissue in the stems of vascular plants. Pith is composed of soft, spongy parenchyma cells, which store and transport nutrients throughout the plant. In eudicots, pith is located in the center of the stem. In monocots, it extends also into flowering stems and roots...

 of elder has been used by watchmakers for cleaning tools before intricate work.

Folklore


Folklore is extensive and can be wildly conflicting depending on region.
  • In some areas, the "elder tree" was supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.

  • In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees for bonfire
    Bonfire
    A bonfire is a controlled outdoor fire used for informal disposal of burnable waste material or as part of a celebration. Celebratory bonfires are typically designed to burn quickly and may be very large...

    s, most notably in witchcraft
    Witchcraft
    Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

     customs the elderberry tree; "Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be" – A rhyme from the Wiccan rede
    Wiccan Rede
    The Wiccan Rede is a statement that provides the key moral system in the Neopagan religion of Wicca and other related Witchcraft-based faiths. A common form of the Rede is An it harm none, do what ye will....

    .

  • If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother
    Elder Mother
    The Elder Mother is an elder-guarding being in English and Scandinavian folklore known by a variety of names, such as the Danish Hyldemoer and the Lincolnshire names Old Lady and Old Girl...

    .

In popular culture

  • The most powerful wand in the Wizarding World
    Harry Potter universe
    The fictional universe of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series of fantasy novels comprises two separate and distinct societies: the wizarding world and the Muggle world...

     of Harry Potter
    Harry Potter
    Harry Potter is a series of seven fantasy novels written by the British author J. K. Rowling. The books chronicle the adventures of the adolescent wizard Harry Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...

     is a wand made of sambucus known as the "Elder Wand".

  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1974 British comedy film written and performed by the comedy group Monty Python , and directed by Gilliam and Jones...

    , the keeper of the French castle taunts King Arthur
    King Arthur
    King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

     and the Knights of the Round Table by telling them that "[their] Father smelt of elderberries."

Further reading

  • Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Methuen & Co Ltd.


External links