Sambucus nigra is also known as the Black Elder, or European Elder. It is a small tree or a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub. It is 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.
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.
Sambucus nigra blooms in late spring around May or June. The flowers are creamy-white. They attract butterflies and birds. The flowers are fragrant. Later they turn into dark berries (elderberries). These berries are edible but not raw. They could cause digestive problems. Flowers are also 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.
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.
How to grow Sambucus nigra:
Grow it in full sun or partial shade. Plant it in moist but well-drained soil. It does tolerate clay soil. It is best to prune Sambucus nigra, otherwise it can grow wild. Sambucus nigra shrub does spread by suckers, as well as self-seeding. This is why in some countries Sambucus nigra is considered invasive. Propagate by softwood as well as hardwood cuttings. For softwood custtings do it in summer and hardwood cuttings in winter.
See also Sambuca nigra porphyrophylla