Elder: A Bit of Botany
a little botanical information on elder flower

Sambucus nigra is a deciduous shrub or small tree of the Adoxaceae family that grows to 6 m (20 ft) tall and wide. The bark, light grey when young, changes to a coarse grey outer bark with lengthwise furrowing. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs, 10–30 cm long, pinnate with five to seven (rarely nine) leaflets, the leaflets 5–12 cm long and 3–5 cm broad, with a serrated margin.

The hermaphrodite flowers are borne in large, flat corymbs 10–25 cm diameter in late spring to mid summer, the individual flowers ivory white, 5–6 mm diameter, with five petals; they are pollinated by flies.

The fruit is a glossy dark purple to black berry 3–5 mm diameter, produced in drooping clusters in late autumn; they are an important food for many fruit-eating birds, notably blackcaps.

common names & nomenclature
The name Elder, is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Aeld meaning fire. Another old name for Elder is Ellhorn, hinting at the use of hollowed Elder branches as a furnace. Old names like Holler, Hylder, Hyllantree, and the German word Holunder all refer to an ancient vegetation Goddess, Hylde Moer, as she was known in Denmark.

Also known as:
european elder, black elder, boor tree, ellhorn, bountry, ellanwood, german elder, elder, elderberry, european elderberry, european black elderberry, judas tree, pipe tree, bourtree, boretree, eller, holler, hylder, hylantree, holunder, sureau

Elder Flower, stemming from the aromatic elder bush
Elder: Where in the World
habitat and range for elder flower

Sambucus nigra is native to most of Europe and also grows in other areas such as North America and Asia.

Elder: Cultivation & Harvesting
considerations for growing and harvesting elder flowers

Elder is commonly found growing in woodlands and hedgerows. It tolerates some shade, but prefers sunny locations.

Elder can grow in most soils, but prefers a moist loamy soil. Grows well in heavy clay soils.

Sow seeds as soon as they are ripe in the autumn in a cold frame, they should germinate in early spring. Stored seed can be sown in the spring in a cold frame but will probably germinate better if it is given 2 months warm followed by 2 months cold stratification first. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If good growth is made, the young plants can be placed in their permanent locations during the early summer. Can also propagate by cuttings or division.

Harvest flowers in late spring, harvest berries in early fall. Use berries and flowers fresh or dry for later use. Berries may also be frozen.

Store dried flowers or berries in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.