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Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Sambucus nigra L. ssp. canadensis (L.) R. Bolli

Sambucus caerulea Raf. var. mexicana (C. Presl ex DC.) L.D. Benson orth. var.

Sambucus canadensis L.

Sambucus canadensis L. var. laciniata A. Gray

Sambucus canadensis L. var. submollis Rehder

Sambucus cerulea Raf. var. mexicana (C. Presl ex DC.) L.D. Benson

Sambucus mexicana C. Presl ex DC.

Sambucus orbiculata Greene

Sambucus simpsonii Rehder ex Sarg.

Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderDipsacalesIncludes viburnum, honeysuckle, snowberry, beautybush, twinflower, many others
FamilyAdoxaceaeElders and viburnums
GenusSambucusFrom Greek sambuke, for a musical instrument made from elderwood
Speciesnigra“Black”
ssp.canadensis“Of for from Canada”

About plant names...

Common elderberry is a North American native shrub. The genus Sambucus derives from the Greek sambuce, the soft styrofoam-like pith in the center the of the stems, which is removed to make musical instruments (or, for that matter, blowguns). This is somewhat ironic, given that elderberry contains enough cyanide, as well as an alkaloid called sambucine, to be poisonous in some cases. Not necessarily the best plant to put in your mouth.

Never underestimate an elderberry. A shrub in our yard was undermined by a woodchuck, lying rootless on its side. We stuck it back into the ground temporarily, meaning to get rid of it. Next spring, it exploded into activity, soon reaching 8 feet in diameter. A couple of years later it was threatening to take over the entire front yard. My wife panicked and declared war on it. Now a dogwood is in the same spot, showing a similar degree of joie de vivre.

 

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/8/2010 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 14 × 9" (35 × 23 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

7/7/2017 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

8/28/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA

Here are some related elderberries:

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Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Sambucus nigra ssp. cerulea

Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa
Common Name

Elderberry

Blue Elderberry

Redberry Elder
Plant Forms a rounded shrub up to 15' (4.6 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point. This woody shrub reaches heights of 20' (6.1 m), with main branches up to 1½" (3.8 cm) in diameter. Rounded shrub up to 20' (6.1 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point.
Flowers Tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white or cream-colored, about 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) around. White or cream-colored, in flat-topped clusters up to 6" (15 cm) around. Flowers form tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white with a pink tinge, about 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) around.
Leaves Opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges. Opposite, in clusters of 3-9, up to 8" (20 cm) long, and oval to lance-shaped. Opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges.
Stem Upright stems, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Upright branches, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Upright branches, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches.
Fruit Berries are shiny and black, in dense, heavy clusters, each up to ¼" (6.3 mm) in diameter. Berries are spherical, blue-black in color, with a white powdery surface that makes them look lighter. Berries are bright red, in large, tight clusters.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 4-10

USDA Zones: 3-9
Habitats   Mixed conifer forests, forest-steppe transitions, open talus slopes, at high elevations  
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

Identification: Forms a rounded shrub up to 15' (4.6 m) in diameter, consisting of many stems emerging from a central point. Upright stems, composed of soft pithy wood, eventually bend into arches. Leaves are opposite, in pinnate groups, each 1¾-6" (5-15 cm) long and about ¾-2" (2-6 cm) wide, with sharply serrated edges. The leaves, flowers and branches have a disagreeable odor when crushed, smelling like “a cross between skunk cabbage and Ailanthus,” according to Will Cook. Flowers form tight umbrella-shaped clusters, white or cream-colored, about 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) around. Berries are shiny and black, in dense, heavy clusters, each up to ¼" (6.3 mm) in diameter.

Edibility: Poisonous Skull & Crossbones All parts of the plant, except for the berries, are poisonous, due to the presence of hydrocyanic acid (cyanide!), and sambucine. But the berries are prized, dried by indigenous peoples, made into jams, or pies, or eaten raw when ripe. Or into elderberry wine.

Online References:

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis at the Vanderbilt University Bioimages web site

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis on the USDA Plants Database (PDF)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis at Southeastern Arizona Wildflowers and the Plants of the Sonoran Desert

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/23/2013 · Rocky Ridge Trail, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH
≈ 15 × 10" (37 × 25 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

4/12/2015 · Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, FL
≈ 9 × 13" (23 × 33 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/17/2010 · Memphis, TN · By Tim Chandler ID is uncertain

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

7/27/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 17 × 12" (44 × 29 cm) ID is uncertain

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

7/9/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 12 × 17" (29 × 44 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

4/12/2015 · Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, FL
≈ 10 × 7" (26 × 18 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

7/9/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 17 × 12" (44 × 29 cm)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 7 Jul 2017.

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Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/16/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 9 × 6" (21 × 15 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

7/27/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 21 × 14" (52 × 34 cm) ID is uncertain

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

4/12/2015 · Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, FL
≈ 10 × 14" (26 × 35 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/8/2010 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 17 × 12" (44 × 29 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/25/2005 · Memphis, TN · By Tim Chandler ID is uncertain

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

6/23/2013 · Rocky Ridge Trail, Beaver Brook Conservation Area, Hollis, NH
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 21 cm)

Sambucus nigra (Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry)

9/13/2009 · Tom and Susan’s, Pepperell, MA
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm)

Range:

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