Sambucus canadensis L. - Elderberry

Sambucus canadensis plant

Family - Caprifoliaceae

Stems - To +3m tall, woody, glabrous, erect, branching, multiple from base, with large whitish pith. New growth green, glabrous, often glaucous.

Leaves - Opposite, pinnately compound. Petioles to +6cm long, glabrous, with an adaxial groove. Petiolules to +5mm long. Leaflets typically 5-9 per leaf, glabrous or very sparsely pubescent, oblong to lanceolate, crenate-serrate, to +10cm long, +5cm broad.

Inflorescence - Terminal compound cymes, typically dome shaped to flattened, to 30cm broad.

Flowers - Corolla white, 5-lobed, glabrous, 5-6mm broad. Lobes 2.2mm long, 2mm broad, rounded to emarginate at apex. Stamens 5, adnate at base of corolla tube, alternating with corolla lobes, erect to spreading. Filaments white, glabrous, 2.4mm long. Anthers yellow, .5mm long. Style wanting. Stigma 5-lobed, capitate. Ovary inferior, 4-locular. Calyx tube 1mm long, creamy white, glabrous, 5-lobed. Lobes acute, .5mm long. Fruits blackish-purple, globose, glabrous, to 5mm in diameter, 4-seeded.

Sambucus canadensis flower

Sambucus canadensis fruits

Flowering - May - August.

Habitat - Open woods, thickets, waste ground, disturbed sites, fence rows, roadsides, railroads.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Other info. - This species is actually quite aggressive if given the right conditions. It spreads by suckering. The fruits are edible if cooked (boiled) and this plant is the source of the ever popular "Elderberry jelly". The pith of the stems is large, soft, and easily removed and my dad tells childhood stories of making flutes from stems of a similar European species. Don't get too much sap in your mouth though, it's toxic. The plants contain calcium oxalate crystals which do a number on a persons kidneys.

Photographs taken at the Kansas City Zoo, 10-30-99, and at Alley Spring, MO., 6-12-04.


Back