From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Elderflower)
Jump to: navigation, search
Sambucus berries (elderberries)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus

See text

Sambucus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. The various species are commonly called elder or elderberry. The genus was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified as Adoxaceae due to genetic and morphological comparisons to plants in the genus Adoxa.


The oppositely arranged leaves are pinnate with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5–30 cm (2.0–11.8 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).

Distribution and habitat[edit]

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.[2]

Flowers of European black elder


Species recognized in this genus are:[3][4]

Sambucus canadensis showing the complex branching of the inflorescence
Sambucus canadensis showing the inflorescence
Elderberry cultivation in Austria


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.


Elderberries, raw
Sambucus spp.
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 305 kJ (73 kcal)
18.4 g
Dietary fiber 7 g
0.5 g
0.66 g
Vitamin A equiv.
30 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.07 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.06 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.5 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.14 mg
Vitamin B6
0.23 mg
Folate (B9)
6 μg
Vitamin C
36 mg
38 mg
1.6 mg
5 mg
39 mg
280 mg
0.11 mg
Other constituents
Water 79.80 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Elderberry fruit or flowers are used as dietary supplements for minor diseases such as flu, colds, constipation, and other conditions, often served as a tea, extract, or in a capsule.[5] There is insufficient research to know its effectiveness for such uses or its safety profile.[5]


Raw elderberries are 80% water, 18% carbohydrates, and less than 1% each of protein and fat (table). In a 100 gram amount, elderberries supply 73 calories and are a rich source of vitamin C, providing 43% of the Daily Value (DV). Elderberries also have moderate contents of vitamin B6 (18% DV) and iron (12% DV), with no other nutrients in significant content (table).


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 or as a flavoring in several food products. In Germany, yoghurt desserts are made with both the berries and the flowers.[6][better source needed] Fruit pies and relishes are produced with berries. In Italy (especially in Piedmont), Germany and Austria, 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, known as "Hollerküchel".[citation needed]

Every year, Romanians produce a traditional soft drink in May and June called "socată" or "suc de soc". It is produced by letting the flowers macerate with water, yeast and lemon for 2–3 days. The last stage of fermentation is done in a closed pressure proof bottle to produce a fizzy drink. The beverage has also inspired Coca-Cola to launch an elderflower-based drink, Fanta Shokata.[7]

The flowers of Sambucus nigra are used to produce elderflower cordial. St-Germain, an American liqueur with faux-French branding, is made from elderflowers. Hallands Fläder, a Swedish akvavit, is flavoured with elderflowers. Despite the similarity in name, the Italian liqueur sambuca is mostly made with star anise and fennel essential oils extracted by vapor distillation. It also contains elderflower extracts with which it is flavored to add a floral note, to smooth and round off the strong licorice flavor.

Hollowed elderberry twigs have traditionally been used as spiles to tap maple trees for syrup.[8]

Potential toxicity[edit]

Although the ripe, cooked berries (pulp and skin) of most species of Sambucus are edible,[5][9][10] uncooked berries and other parts of plants from this genus are poisonous.[11] The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds, and roots of Sambucus plants can contain a cyanidin glycoside. Ingesting a sufficient quantity of cyanidin glycosides may produce illnesses.[5][11]

In 1984, a group of twenty-five people were made sick, apparently by elderberry juice pressed from fresh, uncooked Sambucus mexicana berries, leaves, and stems. However, all twenty-five recovered quickly, including one individual who was hospitalized after drinking five glasses.[12]

Folk medicine[edit]

Dried elderberries ready for steeping

Practitioners of traditional medicine have used black elderberry for hundreds of years,[13][14] including as wine intended for treating rheumatism and pain from traumatic injury.[15][page needed]


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, engrailed moth, swallow-tailed moth and the V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetles 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.

Dead elder wood is the preferred habitat of the mushroom Auricularia auricula-judae, also known as "Jew's ear fungus".[16]

The pith of elder has been used by watchmakers for cleaning tools before intricate work.[17]


Elder commonly grows near farms and homesteads. It is a nitrogen-dependent plant and thus is generally found near places of organic waste disposal. Elders are often grown as a hedgerow plant in Britain since they take very fast, can be bent into shape easily and grow quite profusely, thus having gained the reputation of being 'an instant hedge'. It is not generally affected by soil type or pH level and will virtually grow anywhere sufficient sunlight is available.[18]

Folklore and fiction[edit]

Folklore related to elder trees is extensive and can vary according to region.[19] In some myths, the elder tree is thought to ward off evil and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.[20] 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.[21] Made from the branch of an elder tree, the Elder Wand plays a pivotal role in the final book of the Harry Potter series, which was nearly named Harry Potter and the Elder Wand before author J. K. Rowling decided on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sambucus L". Germplasm Resource Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2005-10-13. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  2. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1-4053-3296-4. 
  3. ^ "Sambucus — The Plant List". Retrieved 2017-10-17. 
  4. ^ Eriksson, Torsten; Donoghue, Michael J. (1997). "Phylogenetic Relationships of Sambucus and Adoxa (Adoxoideae, Adoxaceae) Based on Nuclear Ribosomal ITS Sequences and Preliminary Morphological Data". Systematic Botany. 22 (3): 555–573. doi:10.2307/2419828. 
  5. ^ a b c d "European elder". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health. September 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2016. 
  6. ^ Mild elderberry Demeter yoghurt 3.7% 500g from Andechser Molkerei
  7. ^ Fanta Shokata, Coca-Cola HBC Austria GmbH, 2015, retrieved 6 May 2016 
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ McVicar, Jekka (2007). "Jekka's Complete Herb Book" p. 214–215. Raincoast Books, Vancouver. ISBN 1-55192-882-5
  10. ^ Nova Scotia Museum Website, Poison plant section, Nova Scotia Museum – Poisonous plants
  11. ^ a b Senica, M; Stampar, F; Veberic, R; Mikulic-Petkovsek, M (2016). "The higher the better? Differences in phenolics and cyanogenic glycosides in Sambucus nigra leaves, flowers and berries from different altitudes". Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8085. PMID 27734518. 
  12. ^ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (April 6, 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. 
  13. ^ Thole, Julie M.; Kraft, Tristan F. Burns; Sueiro, Lilly Ann; 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. 
  14. ^ A Modern Herbal | Elder. (1923-01-06). Retrieved on 2011-03-06.
  15. ^ Flaws, Bob (1994). Chinese Medicinal Wines and Elixirs. Blue Poppy. ISBN 0-936185-58-9. 
  16. ^ Roger's Mushrooms: A. auricula-judae
  17. ^ Materials used in construction and repair of watches
  18. ^ Sacred Earth - Elder in profile
  19. ^ Diacono, Mark (15 June 2013). "In praise of the elderflower". The Telegraph. Retrieved 10 September 2017. 
  20. ^ Jen Munson (25 October 2016). "Consider warding off witches, monsters with these spooktacular herbs this Halloween". The News-Herald, Digital First Media, Denver, CO. Retrieved 10 September 2017. 
  21. ^ Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies (Century, 1987); pp. 134–5
  22. ^ Groves, Beatrice (2017). Literary Allusion in Harry Potter. Taylor & Francis. p. 50. ISBN 9781351978736. Retrieved 3 November 2017. 
  23. ^ Brown, Jen (30 July 2007). "Confused by Potter? Author sets record straight". TODAY. Retrieved 3 November 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Methuen & Co Ltd.
  • Abe, Shin; Motai, Hideyo; Tanaka, Hiroshi; Shibata, Mitsue; Kominami, Yohsuke; Nakashizuka, Tohru (2008). "Population maintenance of the short-lived shrub Sambucus in a deciduous forest". Ecology. 89 (4): 1155–1167. doi:10.1890/06-2009.1. 

External links[edit]