WSU Clark County Extension

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Red Elderberry

Scientific name: Sambucus racemosa

Type:Deciduous shrubs
Plant Requirements
Zone:4 to 8
Sun:Full to partial sun
Plant Characteristics
Height:20 ft
Width:6 ft
Bloom:Spring flowers
Bloom Time:April to May
Bloom Color:White
Additional Characteristics



Wildlife value

Description With its lacy foliage, large white flower clusters and brilliant red berry clusters, Red Elderberry is a showy shrub that makes a wonderful addition to the native plant garden.

This deciduous shrub grows up to 20’ tall and 6’ in width. It has arching stems that give this species a vase shape form.

Leaves are pinnately compound with individual leaflets set in an opposite arrangement. Each leaf is 6”-12” long with 5 to 7 lanceolate leaflets, with a pointed apex and pointed and serrated margins. The foliage is dark green and smooth above and paler below. In the fall the leaves turn red before being shed for the winter.

Flowers are monoecious (both male and female parts together). The flowers are white and small and appear in April through May. They form in large dome shaped clusters (umbels). They have a rather unpleasant, skunk smell. Butterflies enjoy the nectar of the flowers, while birds will feast on the ripe berries.

In mid summer the flowers morph to small (1/16 to 1/8 inch) red, berry like fruits.

The stems are hollow. Early Americans made them into pipe-stems and flutes or toy whistles.

Red Elderberry thrives in both full sun as well as partial shade. It will put on more growth with wetter site conditions.

The clusters of drupes are generally considered toxic for human consumption. When ripe however they can be cooked and made into processed products, or fermented into wine. The rest of the plant (flowers, leaves, seeds, roots) is toxic as it contains cyanide-producing glycosides.

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