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|European Black Elder (Sambucus nigra)|
Sambucus (elder or elderberry) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. It contains between 5 and 30 species of deciduous shrubs, small trees and herbaceous perennial plants.
The genus occurs in temperate to subtropical regions of the world. More widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia and South America. Many species are widely cultivated for their ornamental leaves, flowers and fruit.
The leaves are pinnate with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5–30 cm (2.0–12 in) long, and the leaflets have serrated margins. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in late spring; these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries (rarely yellow or white).
Species groups 
- The black-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus nigra found in the warmer parts of Europe and North America with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in flat corymbs, and the berries are black to glaucous blue; they are larger shrubs, reaching 3–8 m (9.8–26 ft) tall, occasionally small trees up to 15 m (49 ft) tall and with a stem diameter of up to 30–60 cm (12–24 in).
- Sambucus australis (Southern Elder; temperate eastern South America)
- Sambucus canadensis (syn. S. nigra ssp canadensis; American Elder; eastern North America; with blue-black berries)
- Sambucus cerulea (syn. S. caerulea, S. coerula, S. glauca; Blue Elderberry, nō-kōm-hē-i′-nē, Konkow language); western North America; dark blue-black berries with glaucous bloom on surface, giving them a sky-blue appearance)
- Sambucus javanica (Chinese Elder; southeastern Asia)
- Sambucus nigra (Elder or Black Elder; Europe and western Asia; with black berries) This is the species most often used medicinally.
- Sambucus lanceolata (Madeira Elder; Madeira Island; with black berries)
- Sambucus mexicana (Mexican Elder; Sonoran Desert; with black berries)
- Sambucus palmensis (Canary Islands Elder; Canary Islands; with black berries)
- Sambucus peruviana (Peruvian Elder; northwest South America; with black berries)
- Sambucus simpsonii (Florida Elder; southeastern United States; with blue-black berries)
- Sambucus velutina (Velvet Elder; southwestern North America; with blue-black berries)
- The Blackberry Elder Sambucus melanocarpa of western North America is intermediate between the preceding and next groups. The flowers are in rounded panicles, but the berries are black; it is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 3–4 m (9.8–13 ft) tall. Some botanists include it in the red-berried elder group.
- The red-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus racemosa found throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries are bright red; they are smaller shrubs, rarely exceeding 3–4 m (9.8–13 ft) tall.
- Sambucus callicarpa (Pacific Coast Red Elderberry; west coast of North America)
- Sambucus chinensis (Chinese Red Elder; eastern Asia, in mountains)
- Sambucus latipinna (Korean Red Elder; Korea, southeast Siberia)
- Sambucus microbotrys (Mountain Red Elder; southwest North America, in mountains)
- Sambucus pubens (American Red Elder; northern North America)
- Sambucus racemosa (European Red Elder or Red-berried Elder; northern Europe, northwest Asia)
- Sambucus sieboldiana (Japanese Red Elder; Japan and Korea)
- Sambucus tigranii (Caucasus Red Elder; southwest Asia, in mountains)
- Sambucus williamsii (North China Red Elder; northeast Asia)
- The Australian elder group comprises two species from Australasia. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries white or yellow; they are shrubs growing to 3 m (9.8 ft) high.
- The dwarf elders are, by contrast to the other species, herbaceous plants, producing new stems each year from a perennial root system; they grow to 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) tall, each stem terminating in a large flat umbel which matures into a dense cluster of glossy berries.
- Sambucus melanocarpa Gray (western elder)
- Sambucus neomexicana Wooton (New Mexico elder)
- Sambucus velutina Dur. & Hilg. (velvet elder; mountains of western Arizona)
The flowers of Sambucus nigra are used to produce elderflower cordial. The French, Austrians and Central Europeans produce elderflower syrup, commonly made from an extract of elderflower blossoms, which is added to Palatschinken filling instead of blueberries. People throughout much of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe use a similar method to make a syrup which is diluted with water and used as a drink. Based on this syrup, Fanta markets a soft drink variety called "Shokata" which is sold in 15 countries worldwide. In the United States, this French elderflower syrup is used to make elderflower marshmallows. St. Germain, a French liqueur, is made from elderflowers. Hallands Fläder, a Swedish akvavit, is flavoured with elderflowers.
The Italian liqueur Sambuca is flavoured with oil obtained from the elderflower.
In Germany, yoghurt desserts are made with both the berries and the flowers.
Wines, cordials and marmalade have been produced from the berries or flowers. Fruit pies and relishes are produced with berries. In Italy (especially in Piedmont) and Germany, the umbels of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and then served as a dessert or a sweet lunch with a sugar and cinnamon topping. In Germany, the dish is known as "Hollerküchel".
In Romania, a slightly fermented soft beverage (called "socata" or "suc de soc") is traditionally produced by letting the flowers macerate, with water, yeast and lemon for 2-3 days.
Ornamental varieties of Sambucus are grown in gardens for their showy flowers, fruits and lacy foliage.
Native species of elderberry are often planted by people wishing to support native butterfly and bird species.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||305 kJ (73 kcal)|
|- Dietary fiber||7 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||30 μg (4%)|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.07 mg (6%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.06 mg (5%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||0.5 mg (3%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.14 mg (3%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.23 mg (18%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||6 μg (2%)|
|Vitamin C||36 mg (43%)|
|Calcium||38 mg (4%)|
|Iron||1.6 mg (12%)|
|Magnesium||5 mg (1%)|
|Phosphorus||39 mg (6%)|
|Potassium||280 mg (6%)|
|Zinc||0.11 mg (1%)|
|Link to USDA Database entry
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Some preliminary studies demonstrate that elderberry may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.
Elder is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dissolved in wine, for rheumatism and traumatic injury. 
Branches from the elder are also used to make the fujara, koncovka and other uniquely Slovakian flutes. Similar musical instruments (furulya) are made of elderberry (fekete bodza, Sambucus nigra) in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The ripe, cooked berries (pulp and skin) of most species of Sambucus are edible. However, uncooked berries, and many other parts of plants from this genus are poisonous. The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots can contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside which gives rise to cyanide as the metabolism processes it). Ingesting a sufficient quantity of cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body.
In 1984, a group of twenty-five people were sickened, apparently by elderberry juice pressed from fresh, uncooked Sambucus mexicana berries. All recovered quickly, however, including one individual who was hospitalized after drinking five glasses. Such reported incidents are rare.
The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. In Northern California elderberries are a favorite food for migrating Band-tailed Pigeons. Flocks can strip an entire bush in less than an hour. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, the Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and the V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle in California are very often found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.
Folklore is extensive and can be wildly conflicting depending on region.
- In some areas, the "elder tree" was supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.
- In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees for bonfires, most notably in witchcraft customs the elderberry tree; "Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be" – A rhyme from the Wiccan rede.
- If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.
In popular culture 
- In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the keeper of the French castle taunts King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by telling them that "[their] Father smelt of elderberries."
- The most powerful wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a wand made of sambucus known as the "Elder Wand".
- Elton John released a song in 1973 called Elderberry Wine. (Lyrics: Bernie Taupin; music Elton John)
- The Rolling Stones released a song in 1974 called "Till the Next Goodbye" on the "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" album which features the line, "You give me a cure-all from New Orleans/Now that's a recipe I sure do need./Some cider vinegar and some elderberry wine/could cure all your ills but it can't kill mine."
- The plot of the stage play and film Arsenic and Old Lace revolves around a pair of spinsters who murder men by serving them elderberry wine adulterated with cyanide, arsenic, and strychnine.
- Elderberries is a comic strip about a home for the elderly, drawn by Phil Frank.
- The Elves of the Inheritance Cycle brew an alcoholic beverage known as faelnirv from Elderberries and "moonbeams."
- Hans Christian Andersen Hyldemoer (The Elder Tree Mother).
- "Sambucus L.". Germplasm Resource Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- Chestnut, Victor King (1902). Plants used by the Indians of Mendocino County, California. Government Printing Office. p. p. 407. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
- Kearney, T.H. & R. H. Peebles. 1960. Arizona Flora. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.
- Harghitei, Perla. (2009-09-09) F"anta Shokata 1.5L Imported Europe". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 16, 2013..
- Mild elderberry Demeter yoghurt 3.7% 500g from Andechser Molkerei
- Medve, Richard J. et al. Edible Wild Plants of Pennsylvania and Neighboring States Penn State Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-271-00690-1, p.161
- Thole, Julie M.; Kraft, Tristan F. Burns; Sueiro, Lilly Ann; Kang, Young-Hwa; Gills, Joell J.; Cuendet, Muriel; Pezzuto, John M.; Seigler, David S. et al. (2006). "A Comparative Evaluation of the Anticancer Properties of European and American Elderberry Fruits". Journal of Medicinal Food 9 (4): 498–504. doi:10.1089/jmf.2006.9.498. PMID 17201636.
- A Modern Herbal | Elder. Botanical.com (1923-01-06). Retrieved on 2011-03-06.
- Zakay-Rones, Z; Thom, E; Wollan, T; Wadstein, J (2004). "Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections.". The Journal of international medical research 32 (2): 132–40. doi:10.1177/147323000403200205. PMID 15080016.
- Barak, V; Halperin, T; Kalickman, I (2001). "The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines". European cytokine network 12 (2): 290–6. PMID 11399518.
- Flaws, Bob (1994). Chinese Medicinal Wines and Elixirs. Blue Poppy. ISBN |0936185589 |.
- McVicar, Jekka (2007). "Jekka's Complete Herb Book" p. 214–215. Raincoast Books, Vancouver. ISBN 1-55192-882-5
- Nova Scotia Museum Website, Poison plant section, Nova Scotia Museum – Poisonous plants
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (April 06, 1984). "Poisoning from Elderberry Juice—California". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 33 (13): 173–174. PMID 6422238. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- Roger's Mushrooms: A. auricula-judae
- Materials used in construction and repair of watches
- Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987); pp. 134–5
- Upton, Sue (24 December 2007). "PotterCast Interviews J.K. Rowling, part two." Accio Quote. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- The Elderberries Comic Strip, June 25, 2012 on GoComics.com
- Phantasy in one act, C.A. Reitzel Publishers, 1851
Further reading 
- Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Methuen & Co Ltd.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Sambucus|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Sambucus|
- Elderberry, elderflower, and why they matter (2009)
- Elder bush info and recipes from the BBC “Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything”
- Mrs. M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal (first published in1931)
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Sambucus
- National Institute of Health — Medline page on Sambucus nigra L.
- Eichhorn, Markus (August 2010). "Elder – The Devil's Tree". Test Tube. Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.
- (French) Sureaux Création d’une collection botanique