By Suzanne Wodek
Sambucus canadensis, commonly called American elderberry, is a native deciduous shrub that typically reaches five to 12 inches tall. It is found naturally along stream banks, in moist woodlands and along roadsides. Large clusters of small lemon-scented white flowers appear this month. The flowers become fruits (drupes) in late summer. They can be used to make jams, jellies, pie filings and elderberry wine. A word of caution, however: leaves, stems, roots and unripe fruit are all poisonous!
Elderberry tolerates a wide variety of wet to dry soils, but prefers rich, moist and slightly acid soil. This shrub can be planted in sun to partial shade. In your home landscape, plant it as a hedge along streams and ponds. It can also be used for erosion control in moist sites and is a great rain garden plant. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers, and the berries are relished by birds and mammals. Deer eat the twigs and leaves.
Native Americans made a tea from the inner and root bark. Both were used as a diuretic and a strong laxative. A tea was also used to promote labor in childbirth and to treat headaches, kidney problems and mucous congestion. Elderberry is still commonly used today in herbal medicine.
Upcoming Events at the Botanical Gardens
Successful Planting Strategies for Native Perennials and Shrubs
Sunday, June 7, 2–4 p.m.
Insect Victory Garden with Heather Rayburn of MonarchLover.org
Sunday, June 14, 1–3 p.m.
Amazing Reptile Adaptations
with Landon Ward
Sunday, June 21, 2–4 p.m.
All programs are $15 for members, $20 for non-members unless otherwise stated. Participants must pre-register and pre-pay for classes by calling 828.252.5190. Check our website for complete information about educational programs this month.