Elderberry Tree

Growth Facts


Sambucus canadensis
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Elderberry brings all the birds to the yard! Common Elderberry causes a commotion in late summer when its big clusters of sweet, purple-black fruits attract every bird in the neighborhood. Over 120 species have been observed snacking on the fruits, including Bluebirds, Cardinals, Indigo Buntings, Grosbeaks, Tanagers, Catbirds, Phoebes, and Robins, to name just a few. Our valuable pollinators are well-served by Elderberry, too, when its large (to 10 inches across) domes of fragrant white flowers open in early summer. Honey bees, carpenter bees, syrphid flies, bee flies, and beetles greedily gather the pollen. A must-have for birders and nature lovers in general!

Growth Facts

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The Story

Common Elderberry is a fast-growing, medium-sized to large Accent usually found in moist soil. It grows all over the eastern U.S., from Minnesota to Maine and from Texas to Florida. A rich history of myth and legend surrounds Elderberries, dating back to pre-Christian days in Europe. A closely related species growing there was said to have connections to magic, fairies, evil demons, and death. It makes perfect sense, then, that in the Harry Potter series, the most powerful magic wand that ever existed (last owned by Dumbledore) was—what else?—an Elder wand!

The Details

Elderflower syrup is a gourmet ingredient that can be made from Common Elderberry blooms. It is used to flavor cakes, cordials, and jellies. The berries are edible as well. They may give you a bit of a stomachache if you eat them raw, but they are tasty when cooked into tarts, jellies, cakes, and muffins.

How to Grow

Common Elderberry is happiest in rich, fertile soil that never dries out. It prefers all-day sun, but will do fine with just a few hours of direct sun. You’ll want to plant in multiples for heaviest fruiting—cross-pollination will allow each plant to bear more fruit. Over time, Common Elderberry will send up suckers around the parent plants; be sure to give them room to spread. Little pruning will be necessary, but if you happen to prune late in the season, don’t destroy the trimmings—native bees may overwinter inside the pithy stems of Elderberry. They emerge in the spring.

Size Guide

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Elderberry Tree