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Black Lace® Elderberry
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The Black Lace™ European Elderberry Tree is a cool little ornamental tree with captivating deep purple (nearly black) cutleaf foliage. The tree bears some resemblance to the red laceleaf types of Japanese Maples, but this uncommon gem is much faster growing than Japanese Maples, and in summer it will also give you the bonus of flat clusters of pretty pink flowers, which jump out from their shadowy background. In late summer, the lovely flowers become small purple-black elderberry fruits that you can turn into jam or wine. Better yet, leave the ripe elderberries for the neighborhood wildlife, and you’ll be entertained by the songbirds that will come to relish this special treat.
This species of Elder is native to Europe, where it has a long history in many cultures there. It figures in several mythological stories and has been associated with both evil witchcraft and magical cures for various ailments, such as the Black Plague. Some people still believe that extract of Elderberry, which can be bought as an herbal supplement, is an effective remedy for colds and other respiratory problems. Black Lace™ Elder, a.k.a. ‘Eva’ Elderberry, arose in England in the late 1990s. It was one of the offspring of a rather involved Elderberry breeding program that began in 1988. It took three generations of carefully orchestrated crosses to get a plant with foliage that was both lacy and nearly black in color, but the result—we think—is quite bewitching!
Black Lace™ Elderberry is usually grown as a large shrub, but our nonconformist growers have trained it to take the form of a (fast-growing) tree instead. Grown this way, the trunk in time becomes thick and the bark deeply furrowed, lending interest to this small accent tree even in winter when the branches are bare.
How to Grow
Elderberries are at their best in areas with cool-summer climates, and Black Lace™ is no exception. They are often found in swampy places in the wild, and likewise, Black Lace™ will be right at home in that low-lying spot of your yard that stays soggy, though it will be perfectly happy in ordinary garden soil as well. Full sun will coax out the richest purpley-black tones from its leaves. Aphids can be problematic in some years, but ladybugs and other natural predators will usually keep them under control; damaged foliage can be cut back and new growth will emerge. You’ll be happy to know that this species does not send up suckers everywhere like the American Elderberry does.
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