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American Elder

Sambucus canadensis L.

American elder
Figure 4.—American elder (Sambucus canadensis)
Other common names.—Sweet elder, sambucus, elder flowers, elder blows.

Habitat and range.—The elder bush is found in rich soil and low, somewhat damp ground from Canada southward to Florida and Arizona

Description.—Elder is a shrub attaining a height of 6 to 10 feet, its light gray, numerous stems being generally smooth and the younger ones containing a large white pith. The leaves are large and consist of 5 to 11 leaflets about 2 to 5 inches in length borne on short stalks. About June or July the flat-topped, fragrant clusters appear composed of numerous, 5-lobed, wheel-shaped, creamy-white flowers. The clusters of edible fruits which follow are black or a very dark purple, small, round, shining, and juicy.

Part used.—The flowers, gathered when fully opened and then quickly dried. The berries are also used to some extent. These must be very carefully dried, so that they will not become moldy.


Sievers, A.F. 1930. The Herb Hunters Guide. Misc. Publ. No. 77. USDA, Washington DC.
Last update Wednesday, March 11, 1998 by aw