name = Elderberry or Elder

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Black Elder ("Sambucus nigra")
regnum = Plantae
phylum = Magnoliophyta
classis = Magnoliopsida
ordo = Dipsacales
familia = Adoxaceae
genus = "Sambucus"
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = See text

"Sambucus" (Elder or Elderberry) is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small trees (two species herbaceous), formerly treated in the honeysuckle family Caprifoliaceae, but now shown by genetic evidence to be correctly classified in the moschatel family Adoxaceae. The genus is native to temperate to subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere; the genus is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, with Southern Hemisphere occurrence restricted to parts of Australasia and South America.

The leaves are opposite, pinnate, with 5-9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11), each leaf 5-30 cm long, the leaflets with a serrated margin. They bear large clusters of small white or cream coloured flowers in the late spring, that are followed by clusters of small red, bluish or black (rarely yellow or white) berries.

pecies groups

*The common elder complex is variously treated as a single species "Sambucus nigra" found in the warmer parts of Europe and North America with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in flat corymbs, and the berries are black to glaucous blue; they are larger shrubs, reaching 5–8 m tall, occasionally small trees up to 15 m tall and with a stem diameter of up to 30–60 cm.
** "Sambucus australis" (Southern Elder; temperate eastern South America)
** "Sambucus canadensis" (American Elder; eastern North America; with blue-black berries)
** "Sambucus cerulea" (syn. "S. caerulea", "S. glauca"; Blueberry Elder; western North America; with blue berries)
** "Sambucus javanica" (Chinese Elder; southeastern Asia)
** "Sambucus mexicana" (Mexican Elder; Mexico and Central America; with blue-black berries)
** "Sambucus nigra" (Elder or Black Elder; Europe and western Asia; with black berries)
** "Sambucus palmensis" (Canary Islands Elder; Canary Islands; with black berries)
** "Sambucus peruviana" (Peruvian Elder; northwest South America; with black berries)
** "Sambucus simpsonii" (Florida Elder; southeastern United States; with blue-black berries)
** "Sambucus peruviana" (Andean Elder; northern South America; with blue-black berries)
** "Sambucus velutina" (Velvet Elder; southwestern North America; with blue-black berries)

*The Blackberry Elder "Sambucus melanocarpa" of western North America is intermediate between the preceding and next groups. The flowers are in rounded panicles, but the berries are black; it is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 3–4 m tall. Some botanists include it in the red-berried elder group.

*The red-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species "Sambucus racemosa" found throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries are bright red; they are smaller shrubs, rarely exceeding 3–4 m tall.
** "Sambucus callicarpa" (Pacific Coast Red Elder; west coast of North America)
** "Sambucus chinensis" (Chinese Red Elder; eastern Asia, in mountains)
** "Sambucus latipinna" (Korean Red Elder; Korea, southeast Siberia)
** "Sambucus microbotrys" (Mountain Red Elder; southwest North America, in mountains)
** "Sambucus pubens" (American Red Elder; northern North America)
** "Sambucus racemosa" (European Red Elder or Red-berried Elder; northern Europe, northwest Asia)
** "Sambucus sieboldiana" (Japanese Red Elder; Japan and Korea)
** "Sambucus tigranii" (Caucasus Red Elder; southwest Asia, in mountains)
** "Sambucus williamsii" (North China Red Elder; northeast Asia)

*The Australian elder group comprises two species from Australasia. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries white or yellow; they are shrubs growing to 3 m high.
** "Sambucus australasica" (Yellow Elder; New Guinea, eastern Australia)
** "Sambucus gaudichaudiana" (Australian Elder or White Elder; shady areas of south eastern Australia)

*The dwarf elders are, by contrast to the other species, herbaceous plants, producing new stems each year from a perennial root system; they grow to 1.5–2 m tall, each stem terminating in a large flat umbel which matures into a dense cluster of glossy berries.
** "Sambucus adnata" (Asian Dwarf Elder; Himalaya and eastern Asia; berries red)
** "Sambucus ebulus" (European Dwarf Elder; central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia; berries black)


There are many uses made of Sambucus nigra. Ornamental forms of many of the species are grown in gardens.


The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, The Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and The V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.

Valley elderberry longhorn beetle 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 "Judas' ear fungus".


The Elder Tree was supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from witches, a popular belief held in widely-distant countries. 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. [Howard, Michael. "Traditional Folk Remedies" (Century, 1987); pp. 134-5]



*Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). "Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow". Methuen & Co Ltd.

External links

* [ Germplasm Resources Information Network: "Sambucus"]
* [ National Institute of Health - Medline page on "Sambucus nigra" L.]
* [ Elder bush info and recipes] from the BBC Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything website.
* [ Grieve, 'A Modern Herbal' (1931)]
* [] Elderberry, elderflower, and why they matter. (2008)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sambucus — ist die botanische Bezeichnung für die Pflanzengattung Holunder Johannes Sambucus (latinisiert, eigentlich János Zsámboky), ungarischer Arzt, Philosoph, Polyhistor, Kunstsammler, Dichter im 16. Jahrhundert. Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sambucus — Sam*bu cus, n. [L., an elder tree.] (Bot.) A genus of shrubs and trees; the elder. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Sambūcus [1] — Sambūcus (S. L., Hollunder od. Flieder), Pflanzengattung aus der Familie der Lonicereae Sambuceae Endl., Distelkarden. Rchnb., 5. Kl. 3. Ordn. L.; Kelch während der Blüthezeit halb oberständig, Saum fünfzähnig, Blumenkrone radförmig, fünfspaltig …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Sambūcus [2] — Sambūcus, Johann, geb. 1531 zu Tyrnau in Ungarn, war Arzt, Rath u. Historiograph des Kaisers Maximilian II., stand auch unter Rudolf II. in hohen Ehren u. st. 1584 in Wien. Seine Manuscripte u. Münzsammlung kamen in die kaiserliche Bibliothek. Er …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Sambūcus — L. (Holunder), Gattung der Kaprifoliazeen, Sträucher oder Bäume mit sehr stark entwickeltem Mark, seltener Stauden, mit gegenständigen, fiederschnittigen, selten dreischnittigen oder mehrfach geteilten Blättern, weißen, gelblichen oder rötlichen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Sambucus — Sambūcus L., Holunder, Holder, fälschlich Flieder, Pflanzengattg. der Kaprifoliazeen; bekannteste Art S. nigra L. (gemeiner Holunder [Abb. 1582; a einzelne Blüte, b Frucht]) dessen Blüten, getrocknet, als schweißtreibendes Mittel (Holunder oder… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Sambucus — Sambucus, Hollunder; s. Caprifoliaceae …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Sambucus —   [lateinisch], die Pflanzengattung Holunder.   …   Universal-Lexikon

  • SAMBUCUS — ramis et trunco arborem refert, sed amplam continent illae medullam, quae candida expungitur, utique spongiosa, ut fistulares reddantur, excavatae arundini similes. Non multun erraverimus, si hanc arundinem delicium pucrorum dixerimus, unde viri… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Sambucus —   Saúco S. nigra …   Wikipedia Español

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