Sassy Sambucus

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis
Common Elderberry, Black Elder, Mexican Elderberry
Now Blooming in the Pollinator Garden

Native to Eastern North America, the common elderberry is a well-known sight, due in part to its rapid growth. This multi-stemmed tree is considered a small flowering tree, or a shrub. Its small white flowers are very fragrant and grow in flat clusters, very similar to the way the flowers appear on Queen Ann’s lace.

The flower produces a blackish-blue berry, that is poisonous raw, but edible after it has been cooked. A major factor in why you can find elderberry jam in so many supermarkets. Native Americans found various medical uses for its bark, leaves, and flowers as well. (edited 4/13/2020) Some recent studies have also found the plant has medicinal qualities. The black elderberry-based Sambucol supplement is being tested to see if the extract can help reduce the duration of flu symptoms and be beneficial for healthy immune systems.

Typically found in swamps and other moist open spaces, as well as disturbed lands. This small tree provides a loose texture that can add an element of grace to a landscape.

At Bok Tower Gardens this plant helps provide a vertical backdrop within the pollinator garden. The berries are eaten by birds, and it also provides Nesting Materials and Structure for Bees according to the Xerces Society.

The Genus is derived from the Greek “sambuce”, an ancient musical instrument. While the specific epithet, nigra, means black a reference to its berries. Finally, the subspecies, Canadensis, means of Canada.

This blog was written by Brendan Huggins, Director of Horticulture and photographed by Cassidy Jones, Social Media Coordinator.

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