|European Black Elder (Sambucus nigra)|
Sambucus (elder or elderberry) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence. It contains between 5 and 30 species of deciduous shrubs, small trees and herbaceous perennial plants.
The genus occurs in temperate to subtropical regions of the world. More widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, its Southern Hemisphere occurrence is restricted to parts of Australasia and South America. Many species are widely cultivated for their ornamental leaves, flowers and fruit.
The leaves are pinnate with 5–9 leaflets (rarely 3 or 11). Each leaf is 5–30 cm (2.0–11.8 in) long, and the leaflets have serrated margins. They bear large clusters of small white or cream-colored flowers in late spring; these are followed by clusters of small black, blue-black, or red berries (rarely yellow or white).
- The black-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus nigra found in the warmer parts of Europe and North America with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in flat corymbs, and the berries are black to glaucous blue; they are larger shrubs, reaching 3–8 m (9.8–26.2 ft) tall, occasionally small trees up to 15 m (49 ft) tall and with a stem diameter of up to 30–60 cm (12–24 in).
- Sambucus australis (Southern Elder; temperate eastern South America)
- Sambucus canadensis (syn. S. nigra ssp canadensis; American Elder; eastern North America; with blue-black berries)
- Sambucus cerulea (syn. S. caerulea, S. coerula, S. glauca; Blue Elderberry, nō-kōm-hē-i′-nē, Konkow language); western North America; dark blue-black berries with glaucous bloom on surface, giving them a sky-blue appearance)
- Sambucus javanica (Chinese Elder; southeastern Asia)
- Sambucus nigra (Elder or Black Elder; Europe and western Asia; with black berries) This is the species most often used medicinally.
- Sambucus lanceolata (Madeira Elder; Madeira Island; with black berries)
- Sambucus mexicana (Mexican Elder; Sonoran Desert; with black berries)
- Sambucus palmensis (Canary Islands Elder; Canary Islands; with black berries)
- Sambucus peruviana (Peruvian Elder; northwest South America; with black berries)
- Sambucus simpsonii (Florida Elder; southeastern United States; with blue-black berries)
- Sambucus velutina (Velvet Elder; southwestern North America; with blue-black berries)
- The Blackberry Elder Sambucus melanocarpa of western North America is intermediate between the preceding and next groups. The flowers are in rounded panicles, but the berries are black; it is a small shrub, rarely exceeding 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) tall. Some botanists include it in the red-berried elder group.
- The red-berried elder complex is variously treated as a single species Sambucus racemosa found throughout the colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere with several regional varieties or subspecies, or else as a group of several similar species. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries are bright red; they are smaller shrubs, rarely exceeding 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) tall.
- Sambucus callicarpa (Pacific Coast Red Elderberry; west coast of North America)
- Sambucus chinensis (Chinese Red Elder; eastern Asia, in mountains)
- Sambucus latipinna (Korean Red Elder; Korea, southeast Siberia)
- Sambucus microbotrys (Mountain Red Elder; southwest North America, in mountains)
- Sambucus pubens (American Red Elder; northern North America)
- Sambucus racemosa (European Red Elder or Red-berried Elder; northern Europe, northwest Asia)
- Sambucus sieboldiana (Japanese Red Elder; Japan and Korea)
- Sambucus tigranii (Caucasus Red Elder; southwest Asia, in mountains)
- Sambucus williamsii (North China Red Elder; northeast Asia)
- The Australian elder group comprises two species from Australasia. The flowers are in rounded panicles, and the berries white or yellow; they are shrubs growing to 3 m (9.8 ft) high.
- The dwarf elders are, by contrast to the other species, herbaceous plants, producing new stems each year from a perennial root system; they grow to 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) tall, each stem terminating in a large flat umbel which matures into a dense cluster of glossy berries.
- Sambucus adnata (Asian Dwarf Elder; Himalaya and eastern Asia; berries red)
- Sambucus ebulus (European Dwarf Elder; central and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia; berries black)
- Sambucus melanocarpa Gray (western elder)
- Sambucus neomexicana Wooton (New Mexico elder)
- Sambucus velutina Dur. & Hilg. (velvet elder; mountains of western Arizona)
The flowers of Sambucus nigra are used to produce elderflower cordial. The French, Austrians and Central Europeans produce elderflower syrup, commonly made from an extract of elderflower blossoms, which is added to Palatschinken filling instead of blueberries. People throughout much of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe use a similar method to make a syrup which is diluted with water and used as a drink. Based on this syrup, Fanta markets a soft drink variety called "Shokata" which is sold in 15 countries worldwide. In the United States, this French elderflower syrup is used to make elderflower marshmallows. St. Germain, a French liqueur, is made from elderflowers. Hallands Fläder, a Swedish akvavit, is flavoured with elderflowers.
The Italian liqueur Sambuca is flavoured with oil obtained from the elderflower.
In Germany, yoghurt desserts are made with both the berries and the flowers.
Wines, cordials and marmalade have been produced from the berries or flowers. Fruit pies and relishes are produced with berries. In Italy (especially in Piedmont) and Germany, the umbels of the elderberry are batter coated, fried and then served as a dessert or a sweet lunch with a sugar and cinnamon topping. In Germany, the dish is known as "Hollerküchel".
In Romania, a slightly fermented soft beverage (called "socată" or "suc de soc") is traditionally produced by letting the flowers macerate, with water, yeast and lemon for 2-3 days. A similar drink is produced in the UK, but in this case the last stage of fermentation is allowed to proceed in a closed pressure proof bottle to give a fizzy drink called elderflower champagne.
Ornamental varieties of Sambucus are grown in gardens for their showy flowers, fruits and lacy foliage.
Native species of elderberry are often planted by people wishing to support native butterfly and bird species.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||305 kJ (73 kcal)|
|- Dietary fiber||7 g|
|Vitamin A equiv.||30 μg (4%)|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.07 mg (6%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.06 mg (5%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||0.5 mg (3%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.14 mg (3%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.23 mg (18%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||6 μg (2%)|
|Vitamin C||36 mg (43%)|
|Calcium||38 mg (4%)|
|Iron||1.6 mg (12%)|
|Magnesium||5 mg (1%)|
|Phosphorus||39 mg (6%)|
|Potassium||280 mg (6%)|
|Zinc||0.11 mg (1%)|
|USDA Nutrient Database|
Black elderberry has been used medicinally for hundreds of years. Some preliminary studies demonstrate that elderberry may have a measurable effect in treating the flu, alleviating allergies, and boosting overall respiratory health.
Elder is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dissolved in wine, for rheumatism and traumatic injury. 
Branches from the elder are also used to make the fujara, koncovka and other uniquely Slovakian flutes. Similar musical instruments (furulya) are made of elderberry (fekete bodza, Sambucus nigra) in Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.
The ripe, cooked berries (pulp and skin) of most species of Sambucus are edible. However, most uncooked berries and other parts of plants from this genus are poisonous. Sambucus nigra is the only variety considered to be non-toxic, but it is still recommended that its berries be cooked slightly for culinary purposes.  The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots of Sambucus plants can contain a cyanide-inducing glycoside (a glycoside which gives rise to cyanide as the metabolism processes it). Ingesting a sufficient quantity of cyanide-inducing glycosides can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body.
In 1984, a group of twenty-five people were sickened, apparently by elderberry juice pressed from fresh, uncooked Sambucus mexicana berries, leaves and stems. However, all twenty-five recovered quickly, including one individual who was hospitalized after drinking five glasses. Such reported incidents are rare.
The berries are a very valuable food resource for many birds. In Northern California elderberries are a favorite food for migrating Band-tailed Pigeons. Flocks can strip an entire bush in less than an hour. Elders are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail, Buff Ermine, Dot Moth, Emperor Moth, the Engrailed, Swallow-tailed Moth and the V-pug. The crushed foliage and immature fruit have a strong fetid smell.
Valley elderberry longhorn beetle in California are very often found around red or blue elderberry bushes. Females lay their eggs on the bark. Larvae hatch and burrow into the stems.
Folklore is extensive and can be wildly conflicting depending on region.
- In some areas, the "elder tree" was supposed to ward off evil influence and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit.
- In some regions, superstition, religious belief, or tradition prohibits the cutting of certain trees for bonfires, most notably in witchcraft customs the elderberry tree; "Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be" – A rhyme from the Wiccan rede.
- If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.
In popular culture
- The most powerful wand in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a wand made of sambucus known as the "Elder Wand".
- Elderberries is a comic strip about a home for the elderly, drawn by Phil Frank.
- Hans Christian Andersen Hyldemoer (The Elder Tree Mother).
- Vedel, H., & Lange, J. (1960). Trees and Bushes in Wood and Hedgerow. Methuen & Co Ltd.
|Commons has media related to Sambucus.|
- Elderberry, elderflower, and why they matter (2009)
- BBC “Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything”
- (first published in1931)
- (French) Sureaux Création d’une collection botanique