Red Elderberry Edible OR''

Red Elderberry Edible OR''

Red Elderberry Edible

Names: The name Sambucus is derived from the Greek sambuca, which was a stringed instrument supposed to have been made from elder wood. Racemosa refers to the elongated inflorescences, called racemes. It is thought the name elder comes the Anglo-saxon ‘auld,’ ‘aeld’ or ‘eller’, meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into the center of a fire. Our Red Elderberry has also been known as S. callicarpa (callicarpa=beautiful fruit). Some identify our local plants as S. racemosa ssp. pubens var. arborescens; (pubens because of the downy pubescence beneath the leaves, and arborescens because of its tree-like form.) It also may be called Mountain Red Elderberry, Scarlet Elder or Elderberry, Racemed Elder, or Bunchberry Elder. A purplish-black-berried form, Rocky Mountain Elderberry, S. racemosa var. melanocarpa is also found through much of the west.


Use by wildlife: Old Skykomish chiefs reportedly ordered people not to burn brush where Red Elderberries grew because the deer ate the ripe berries. Deer and elk will eat the foliage, bark and buds, but Red Elderberry is usually not a preferred browse; palatability increases after frost and probably varies with relative cyanide content of individual plants. Many birds eat the berries including thrushes, robins, grouse, and pigeons. Squirrels, mice, raccoons, and bears also eat the fruit. Bears will also eat the foliage and the roots. Porcupines, mice and hares eat the buds and bark in winter. Flowers are pollinated by bees, flies, and the wind. Fruit-eating birds and mammals disperse the seeds.In the Landscape: Red Elderberry is especially attractive in woodland gardens. Its vase-like, arborescent form creates an umbrella-like canopy over smaller woodland shrubs.

Overgrown plants can be severely pruned. Red Elderberry is used for revegetation, erosion control, and wildlife plantings. It may be relatively tolerant of heavy metal contamination, so may be useful in restoring habitats around mining and smelting sites. Red Elderberry is a tall shrub which can grow 4-12 feet tall in our area. It begins growth early in spring, when it produces large branching clusters of tiny white or cream flowers. The flowers are about 1/4 inch in diameter and have five petals. When closed, the flower buds are pink; when open, the flowers are white, cream, or yellowish. The flowers are fragrant, sometimes attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. The flower stalks are light green. Red Elderberry buds appear in early May. The shrub blooms in the latter half of May in the Adirondacks. The leaves and stems of Red Elderberry are opposite (meaning that they grow directly across from one another on opposite sides). The leaves are compounds in groups of five or seven. The individual leaflets are lance-shaped to narrowly oval, two to four inches long, tapering to a pointed tip. The edges are finely and irregularly serrated. The foliage has a distinctive, disagreeable odor when crushed. The bark of the Red Elderberry is brownish-grey on older specimens. (Source: wildadirondacks.org)




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