Sambucus nigra also known as the Black Elder, or European Elder is a small tree or a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub from the Adoxaceae family of plants. The nigra in the name is referred to as the glossy black colored berries. It is native to Europe, Southwestern Asia, and North Africa. Sambucus nigra grows to about 20ft high or about 2.5 meters. It blooms in late spring around May or June with creamy white flowers that attract butterflies and birds. The flowers are fragrant and later it produces dark berries (elderberries) which are edible but not raw as they could cause digestive problems. (Flowers are also edible). However, the leaves when crushed have an unpleasant scent. Sambucus nigra Leaves are 5-9 leaflets per each leaf that are saw-toothed. Do not eat the leaves or any green parts of this plant, only flowers and berries are edible.
The berries are used in foods such as jams, wine, ice cream, juice, and jellies but Sambucus canadensis or the American Elderberry seems to be more flavorful and popular. The flowers can be dried to make elder tea. Though historically Elder has been used in food and medicine for thousands of years going back to Egyptians. In herbal medicine, the elder is considered as an antioxidant, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory, in another word it helps reduce inflammation and swelling. In certain climates, this tree is known as invasive, especially in the mid-west United States.
It can grow both in full sun or partial shade in moist but well-drained soil, it does tolerate clay soil. Sambucus nigra shrub does spread but suckers, as well as self-seeding, and that is why in some locations it is considered invasive. It is best to prune them to keep the shape otherwise it can grow wild. However, you can propagate with softwood as well as hardwood cuttings. For softwood try in summer and hardwood in winter.
See also Sambuca nigra porphyrophylla