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FutureStarrRed elderberry syrup
Relationships: Sambucus is a genus with 5-30 species depending on how they are “lumped” or divided. Most are native to the northern hemisphere with a few in Australia (and neighboring islands), and South America. Blue Elderberry, American Elderberry, and Red Elderberry, are the only Elder species native to the United States (other named species are now lumped into these species).
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. 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.
Use Food: Though many people think (incorrectly) that the fruit is poisonous, it was eaten widely by British Columbia First Peoples. Clusters of berries were gathered in July and August. Berries were detached back at camp and cooked overnight in steaming pits or boiled in redcedar boxes. Berries were placed over fires on skunk cabbage leaves and dried into cakes for later use. To improve the flavour, red elderberries were mixed with other kinds of berries. Recently people mix the berries with sugar and make wine jelly or jam.Red Elderberry: A medium-sized, robustly fruiting shrub with creamy-white flower clusters and scarlet fruits set against downy green leaves. Adaptable in gardens; tolerant of wet soils and partial shade, neither of which will diminish fruit set. Provides early nectar for spring pollinators, and the fruits are some of the first to ripen, filling a void for birds in early summer. (Source: wildseedproject.net)