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Sambucus nigraElder

By Leanne Downs9 November 2019

Elder or Black Elder (Sambucus nigra) can be found all over Britain – a common sight in hedgerows, they are are source of popular edible berries and flowers.

Where can I find Elder

Elder is a shrub or small tree which is very common all over the UK, mostly found in hedgerows, along roadsides, on waste-land and in woodlands. There are several closely related species or subspecies which are native to Asia and North America.

When can I find Elderflowers and Elderberries?

Elderflowers appear in late spring and last until mid-summer. The berries ripen in late autumn.

All green parts of Elder are poisonous, including the berries when green | when ripe the berries are edible – though should be cooked before consumption.

How to identify Elder, Elderberries and Elderflower

Elder can grow up to 20 feet in height. It has a light grey bark which becomes coarser as it ages. The leaves are arranged in opposite pairs with a leaf on the end of the stem. There are usually between 5 and 9 leaves on a leaf stem. It’s leaves can grow up to 30cm in length.

Its flowers are small and white/cream arranged in clusters. They are heavily scented with five petals on each flower and five stamens.

Elderberries are dark shiny purple or blue black, again growing in clusters.

The heavily scented flowers are used to make Elderflower cordial, a popular drink in many European countries

Uses for Elder

The flowers are edible, as are the berries when ripe. They should be cooked before consumption and care taken with unripe berries which are slightly poisonous. All green parts of the plant are poisonous.

The flowers can be used to make cordial and lightly battered to make fragrant fritters. The berries are used to make syrup, wine and vinegar. They are popular for their medicinal benefits and are used to alleviate symptoms of colds and flu viruses.

In the colder months, the berries are an important food source for many birds, as well as deer and sheep.

Leanne Downs

About Leanne Downs

Leanne Downs is the content editor for Thryve and works as an outdoor writer, blogger and photographer. She loves hiking, hillwalking and wild camping.

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