Elderberry (Sambucus nigra canadensis)

By MaryAnn Fink LIFE Exhibit Curator Pollinator Junction

Wild and wonderful, the Elderberry stands out in any setting. She is sometimes a roadside resident, occasionally at home on a hillside, and always lovely in landscaping. In selected situations, the Elderberry is a most striking addition as an unexpected anchor in a container situation!

She can be a good size girl at a height of 8-10′ or groomed into a more compact manageable size with a gentle hand.  Either way her bundle of branches creates a living bouquet of flowers and berries.

Her flowers are sweetly scented and tempting to touch. Be gentle as anything more than light brush with flower or foliage releases a distinct antiseptic scent that may be more appropriate in a medical clinic setting!

She decorates herself with fragrant flowers for several weeks beginning  in June in Missouri. An independent girl, she is able to produce some fruit on her own (i.e., self-fertile). However, she is socially-oriented and prefers mixing it up with other non-related elderberries which often greatly improves her production of dark purple drupe-like fruit.

Elderberry is normally vigorous in her growth once she has her roots established. She can develop a broad loose profile over time. This makes her especially good for mixing with other shrubbery for softening and creating a relaxed informal hedge.

Her roots are fairly shallow and centralized. Should she spread beyond her designated area, use a sharp shovel trench to define her boundaries to coax her to stay in her place.

Elderberry flowers supply pollen to honeybees, small bees and bee mimics and flower beetles. The stems provide housing for mason bees. Songbirds eat the fruit!


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