Friday, June 5, 2009

Elderberry Time


One of my favorite plants found in the Back Woods (and found  throughout most of the US and Canada) is the elderberry; Sambucus nigra L. subsp. canadensis (L.)Bolli. In the honeysuckle family Caprofoliaceae, it has beautiful fragrant white flowers arranged in dense flat clusters reminiscent of  the more herbaceous Queen Anne’s lace of more northern climes. Following those fabulous flowers come some quite delectable black/purple berries that are perfect to stew up into some jelly or jam or ferment into a fine elderberry wine. Notably the rest of the plant, including unripened berries, is mildly toxic. ( When in doubt never consume any wild fruit or other plant parts)


Very popular with wildlife, this plant can be found in semi shaded dry areas and tolerates full sun in moist conditions. Elderberry is a vigorous pioneering species readily colonizing any clearing particularly on moist sites. Deciduous in the winter and resprouting every spring in dense clumps; Elderberry can be easily recognized in the field even when not in flower by it’s distinctive compound leaves and soft pithy stems covered in warty lenticels.


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