Sambucus racemosa

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Sambucus racemosa
Sambucus racemosa 6261.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Dipsacales
Family: Adoxaceae
Genus: Sambucus
S. racemosa
Binomial name
Sambucus racemosa

Sambucus racemosa is a species of elderberry known by the common names red elderberry[2] and red-berried elder.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is native to Europe, northern temperate Asia, and North America across Canada and the United States.[1] It grows in riparian environments, woodlands, and other habitats, generally in moist areas.[4]


Sambucus racemosa is often a treelike shrub growing 2–6 m (7–20 ft) tall. The stems are soft with a pithy center.

Each individual leaf is composed of 5 to 7 leaflike leaflets, each of which is up to 16 cm (6+14 in) long, lance-shaped to narrowly oval, and irregularly serrated along the edges. The leaflets have a strong disagreeable odor when crushed.[5]

The inflorescence is a vaguely cone-shaped panicle of several cymes of flowers blooming from the ends of stem branches. The flower buds are pink when closed, and the open flowers are white, cream, or yellowish. Each flower has small, recurved petals and a star-shaped axis of five white stamens tipped in yellow anthers. The flowers are fragrant and visited by hummingbirds and butterflies.[4]

The fruit is a bright red or sometimes purple drupe containing 3 to 5 seeds.

Varieties and subspecies[edit]


The stems, roots and foliage are poisonous, and the berries can be toxic or cause nausea if eaten raw.[4]

Medicinal plant[edit]

It has been used as a traditional medicinal plant by Native Americans, including the Bella Coola, Carrier, Gitksan, Hesquiaht, Menominee, Northern Paiute, Ojibwa, Paiute, Potawatomi, Tlingit, and Haida peoples.[4][15] The uses included as an emetic, antidiarrheal, cold and cough remedy, dermatological and gynecological aid, and a hemostat.[15]


The fruits are reportedly safe to eat[16] when cooked, but are potentially poisonous when raw. They were cooked in a variety of recipes by indigenous peoples, including by the Apache, Bella Coola, Gitxsan, Gosiute, Makah, Ojibwa, Quileute, Skokomish, Yurok peoples.[4]

The fruits are popular with birds, who also distribute the seeds.[17] The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.[4]


Sambucus racemosa is cultivated as an ornamental plant, for use as a shrub or small tree in traditional and wildlife gardens, and natural landscape design projects.[4]


Cultivars in the nursery trade include:

  • Sambucus racemosa 'Black Lace' — burgundy foliage[18]
  • Sambucus racemosa 'Lemon Lace' — golden yellow and green foliage[19]
  • Sambucus racemosa 'Lemony Lace' — golden green foliage, with red new growth[20]
  • Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold' — green foliage, with bronze new growth:[21] it has received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[22][23]



  1. ^ a b Sambucus racemosa was originally described and published in Species plantarum 1:270. 1753. "Sambucus racemosa". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  2. ^ "Sambucus racemosa". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  3. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Sambucus racemosa". Native Plant Database. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, University of Texas at Austin.
  5. ^ Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of North Carolina: Red Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa var. pubens)
  6. ^ "Sambucus racemosa subsp. kamtschatica". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  7. ^ "Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa". Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database – via {{citation}}: External link in |via= (help)
  8. ^ "Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA.
  9. ^ Jepson Flora Project (ed.). "Sambucus racemosa var. melanocarpa". Jepson eFlora. The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley.
  10. ^ "Sambucus racemosa subsp. racemosa". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  11. ^ "Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa". Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkeley, California: The Calflora Database – via {{citation}}: External link in |via= (help)
  12. ^ "Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA.
  13. ^ Jepson Flora Project (ed.). "Sambucus racemosa var. racemosa". Jepson eFlora. The Jepson Herbarium, University of California, Berkeley.
  14. ^ "Sambucus racemosa subsp. sibirica". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  15. ^ a b University of Michigan at Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany for Sambucus racemosa
  16. ^ Fagan, Damian (2019). Wildflowers of Oregon: A Field Guide to Over 400 Wildflowers, Trees, and Shrubs of the Coast, Cascades, and High Desert. Guilford, CT: FalconGuides. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4930-3633-2. OCLC 1073035766.
  17. ^ Pojar, J. & A. MacKinnon. (1994). Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Lone Pine Publishing. ISBN 1-55105-042-0
  18. ^ Proven Sambucus racemosa Black Lace
  19. ^ Wayside Sambucus racemosa 'Lemon Lace'
  20. ^ Proven Sambucus racemosa Lemony Lace
  21. ^ Fine Gardening Magazine: Sambucus racemosa Sutherland Gold
  22. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Sambucus racemosa 'Sutherland Gold'". Retrieved 5 March 2021.
  23. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 94. Retrieved 28 October 2018.

External links[edit]