Sambucus nigra is a species complex of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae native to most of Europe and North America.[1] Common names include elderelderberryblack elderEuropean elderEuropean elderberry, and European black elderberry.[2][3] It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry fertile soils, primarily in sunny locations. The plant is a very common feature of hedgerows and scrubland in Britain and northern Europe, but is also widely grown as an ornamental shrub or small tree. Both the flowers and the berries have a long tradition of culinary use, primarily for cordial and wine.[4] The Latin specific epithet nigra means “black”, and refers to the deeply dark colour of the berries.[5]

Although elderberry is commonly used in dietary supplements and traditional medicine, there is no scientific evidence that it provides any benefit for maintaining health or treating diseases.[6]



Elderberry is a deciduous shrub or small tree growing to 6 m (20 ft) tall and wide,[4] rarely reaching 10 m (33 ft) tall. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing, lenticels prominent.[7] The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The young stems are hollow.[8] The English term for the tree is not believed to come from the word “old”, but from the Anglo Saxon æld, meaning fire, because the hollow stems of the branches were used as bellows to blow air into a fire.[9]

The hermaphroditic flowers have five stamens,[10] which are borne in large, flat corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in late spring to mid-summer, the individual flowers are ivory white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies.

The fruit is a glossy, dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in late autumn;[4] they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably blackcaps.

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