WSU Clark County Extension

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American Elderberry

Scientific name: Sambucus nigra

Type:Deciduous shrubs
Plant Requirements
Zone:3 to 9
Sun:Full sun
Plant Characteristics
Height:10 ft
Width:10 ft
Bloom:Summer flowers
Bloom Time:May to August
Bloom Color:White
Additional Characteristics



Wildlife value

Description Long used in making jellies, jams, and wine, American Elderberry makes a nice addition to the wetter garden site.

This deciduous shrub grows 8’-10’ tall and as wide. It spreads by underground stolens so that new plants will emerge near existing ones. It features pinnately compound leaves, consisting of 7 leaflets which are arranged in an opposite manner. Leaflets range in length from 2”-6” with pointed tips. The leaf margins are sharply serrated. During the summer months the leaves are bright green, while in the fall they turn a pleasing yellow-green.

In late spring white flower clusters form in convex clusters termed cymes. On healthy shrubs they can be up to 12” across. As the flowers fade berries form. At first they are green but soon ripen to the characteristic blue-black. At maturity they are slightly less than ¼” in diameter.

All foliar portions of the American Elderberry are poisonous. Green berries are toxic as well. Only the blue-black ripe berries are o.k. to pick and process into preserves or fermented into fruit wine. Raw, green berries should not be eaten.

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds.

This sun loving plant will not tolerate shade. It likes moist sites.

None reported.
For assistance, contact Dr. Charles Brun (, (360) 397-6060 5701
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