Elder
(Sambucus nigra)
Compound
Pinnate
Opposite

compound leaf

Winter twig
Winter twig

flowers

shrub

distribution map

The opposite, pinnate leaves have 5-7 oval to elliptical leaflets (including a single one at the end) with toothed margins. Each is 3-9 cm long and hairy only on the veins beneath.

ID check

Elder is a deciduous shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall, often branching from the base with a deeply and longly furrowed bark. It is a native of woods, scrub, roadsides and waste places, on lime- or nitrogen-rich soils.

The 5-petalled, creamy-white flowers, 5 mm across, are in plate-like clusters up to 20 cm in diameter, which open in June and July.

The juicy, round, black fruits, which ripen in August and September, are the elderberries.

The stout twigs are greyish and covered with prominent 'warts' called lenticels.

Facts

  • The leaves are POISONOUS and are avoided by rabbits and cattle.

  • The flowers can be used to make a refreshing cordial, whilst the berries may be turned into a most palatable wine.

  • The flowers are visited by many insects, attracted by the nectar, whilst birds relish the berries.

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