Sambucus canadensis

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Sambucus canadensis
Sambucus nigra subsp canadensis - Indiana.jpg
Foliage and fruit

Secure (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus
S. canadensis
Binomial name
Sambucus canadensis
Sambucus nigra canadensis range map 1.png
Natural range of Sambucus canadensis

Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis (L.) Bolli

Sambucus canadensis, the American black elderberry, Canada elderberry, or common elderberry, is a species of elderberry native to a large area of North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and south through eastern Mexico and Central America to Panama. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry soils, primarily in sunny locations.


It is a deciduous suckering shrub growing to 3 m or more tall. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, pinnate with five to nine leaflets, the leaflets around 10 cm long and 5 cm broad. In summer, it bears large (20–30 cm diameter) corymbs of white flowers above the foliage, the individual flowers 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals.

The fruit (known as an elderberry) is a dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in the fall.


It is closely related to the European Sambucus nigra, and some authors treat it as conspecific, under the name Sambucus nigra subsp. canadensis.[2]


The flower (known as an elderflower) is edible, as well as the ripe berries when cooked. Other parts of the plant, such as leaves, stems, roots, seeds and unripe fruits, are toxic[3][4] due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, and alkaloids.[5] Because of the presence of cyanogenic glycosides in the seeds, the fruit should not be eaten raw in much quantity.[citation needed] Traditional methods of consuming elderberry includes jams, jellies, and syrups, all of which cook down the fruit and strain out the seeds.

Uses for the fruit include wine, jelly and dye. Leaves and inner bark can be used as an insecticide and a dye.[6] Leaves are also traditionally used in herbalism topically.[citation needed]

The genus name comes from the Greek word sambuce, an ancient wind instrument, in reference to the removal of pith from the twigs of this and other species to make whistles.[7][8]



  1. ^ "NatureServe Explorer 2.0 - Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis, Common Elderberry". Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Sambucus nigra". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  3. ^ Peterson, Lee Allen (1977). Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 172. ISBN 0-395-92622-X.
  4. ^ Preston, Richard J.; Braham, Richard R. (2002). North American Trees: Fifth Edition. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State Press. p. 199. ISBN 0-8138-1526-6.
  5. ^ "Sambucus canadensis". North Carolina State Extension.
  6. ^ "Sambucus canadensis". Plants for a Future.
  7. ^ Niering, William A.; Olmstead, Nancy C. (1985) [1979]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, Eastern Region. Knopf. p. 448. ISBN 0-394-50432-1.
  8. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1980). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region. New York: Knopf. p. 670. ISBN 0-394-50760-6.

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