Simply The Best Natives-Common Elderberry

 What a desolate place would be a world without a flower!  It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome.  ~Clara L. Balfour



This year, I am continuing my series profiling native plants.  Each month I pick a native plant to recommend that is growing in my garden.  And as part of this profile, I link in with others who are espousing the wonders of their native plants and wildflowers through the Wildflower Wednesday meme hosted by Gail@Clay and Limestone.

DSCN2551At the end of this post, you can find the list of the native plant I profiled last year.  One of these days, I will put up a page with all the  native plants I have profiled over the last few years.  

For this first profile of 2015, I am showcasing Common Elderberry or Sambucus canadensis.  This berry producing bush, that I have grown to love both in flower and fruit, is part of the Honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).  It has many common names such as American Elderberry, Mexican Elderberry, Black Elder,  Blackberry Elder, Common Elder, Elder Flower, Sambucus and Sweet Elder.

Common Elderberry is found throughout a large area of North America; east of the Rocky Mountains, and south to Mexico and Central America.  It grows in moist areas like swamp edges, marshes, bogs, ponds, streams, fields, ditches and woods.  Pictured here, mine is growing with monarda near my back pergola.


I am joining forces once again with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.




Growing Conditions

Common Elderberry is a perennial shrub that forms a dense thicket.  It is hardy from zone 3 to 8. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and prefers full or partial sun and a moist, loamy soil. Once established, it is virtually problem-free.

DSCN9238Blooms are white, and fruit is bright red then turning purple-black as it ripens.  I have several pictures in the post of the different stages of berries forming and growing starting with the fruit beginning to form (pictured left).

Flowers occur from June to July, and you can pick berries August through October.

The fastest way to propagate Common Elderberry is by taking softwood cuttings from one-year old plants.




Benefits to Wildlife 

IMG_2584Birds and some mammals love to eat elderberries.  Deer will browse this bush, but I have not seen any around my elderberry. 

The flowers are a wonderful nectar source for native bees.  And the bush also provides nesting materials for native bees, and a nest site for birds including hummingbirds.  How cool would that be to have hummers nesting in the garden.  Perhaps I can plant more of these shrubs in my wet areas where the hummers would have more privacy.





DSCN0097The leaves, stems and unripe berries of Common Elderberry are toxic.  Berries that have been dried or cooked are not poisonous.

The most common use for the berries is in making jelly, preserves, pies, and wine.  The berries are low in calories and high in potassium, beta-carotene, calcium, phosphorous and vitamin C.

The fragrant flowers are edible.  And you can make a wonderful tea from the dried flowers.

I love to plant other natives like the echinacea pictured here with my elderberry shrub.




Folklore and Tales 

The name ‘Sambucus‘ is taken from the word for an ancient musical instrument.  It refers to the elder stems that were used to make instruments. 

Bark and roots were used for tanning leather and dyeing fabric.IMG_2583

During the mid 1800s, edible parts of the plant were brewed as a tea and used medicinally.

Common Elderberry was also used by many Native American tribes as a remedy for toothache, asthma, inflammation, headaches and fever.

Native Americans also used the ripe berries and the flowers for food.

In Europe, the European elder was said to have healing properties and possess magic.  Charms made from the wood kept away evil and disease.  Sleeping under the elder was supposed to create dreams.

In the Language of Flowers, the Elderberry blossoms represented Humility, Kindness, Zeal and Compassion




Do you grow elderberries or other berry producing bushes?  Do you have a favorite variety?



Simply The Best 2014:


November-New England Aster

October-Maidenhair Fern

September- St. John’s Wort

August-Golden Alexanders

July-Wild Geranium

June-Ostrich Fern



March-Northern Sea Oats

February-Common Boneset

January-Pearly Everlasting



In A Vase On Monday 


Some of the paperwhites have bloomed and what a beautiful, simple vase they make.  It is Monday so it is time to find flowers and plant material in the garden to put in a vase.  Thankfully I grew some paperwhites under my grow lights, at Cathy’s suggestion.  These are Narcissus papyraceus ‘Ziva’.




paperwhites collage

I took a few photos over a couple of days as the blooms opened.  The vase I used was discovered sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets gathering dust.  It was purchased somewhere years ago.  I love the colors and shape.




paperwhites vase collage

I placed this vase in the living room where lots of sun streams in this time of year.  I took a few shots in black and white.  I love the contrast.  Has anyone noticed that paperwhites don’t smell at night?  As soon as the sun goes down, the odor lessens until it stops altogether especially once the blooms are fully open…strange.

I am joining in with a few memes this week as I prepare this vase:  Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday; Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Ramblesand with Judith@Lavender Cottage  who is hosts Mosaic Monday.

So what may be in bloom this winter ready to be plucked for an arrangement.  I am still trying to force a few of the willow branches (shown at the top of this post) for an early bloom.  And I have more bulbs growing indoors.  Still lots to choose from even in winter.



Next up on the blog:  

Next Monday, I will be have a Garden Journal post highlighting January’s garden.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 



I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2015.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.  

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