Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of Patrick J. Alexander, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Black elderberry

Scientific name
Sambucus nigra
Also Known As
American elder, Blue elder, Common elderberry, European black elderberry, Wild elder
Plant Family
Black elderberries are deciduous shrubs with 3-9 paired leaflets per leaf. The clusters of flowers are white to cream-colored and later produce clusters of purple to black berries.
Identification Hints

Black elderberries are deciduous shrubs with 3-9 paired leaflets per leaf. The clusters of flowers are white to cream-colored and later produce clusters of purple to black berries.

Did You Know?

The flowers develop into blue berries which are an important source of food for birds and mammals. The blue berries were also dried and preserved for eating by Native Americans, and used by the early California immigrants to make jam and wine.

Leaves
Pinnately compound (the leaflets are arranged on a central axis in what appear to be opposite pairs) with 3 to 9 leaflets per leaf; the leaflets are oval to elliptical, smooth-surface or hairy, with a highly pointed tip and often with an asymmetrical base. The margins of the leaflets are toothed (serrated). The leaves are deciduous.
Flowers
Flowers are white or cream colored, small, and borne in terminal clusters (4 to 33 cm in diameter) that bear dozens to hundreds of flowers. The flower is radially symmetrical and 5-lobed.
Fruits
Elderberry fruits are purple to black berries just under 0.25 in (0.64 cm) in diameter that are found in large clusters on the branches.
Bark
The bark of mature trees is dark and rough.
Habitat
Common, particularly in stream banks, riverside woodlands, and in open areas in the forest understory. Although elderberry’s preferred habitats are the bottoms of canyons where water persists longest during the summer, it is also often found on dry hillsides.
Bloom Time
Flowers from May to September
States
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY